On the Move

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We’ve been preparing to move and have no idea where we’re going. Or exactly when. After months of inner turmoil I’m okay with it for the most part.
As we’ve packed I’ve felt a wee bit (okay, more than that) sad for all the dreams that won’t be realized in this place.
But it isn’t about our dreams.
It’s about being open to love and serve and become more like Jesus.
I can do that anywhere.

While I was growing up my family moved around a bit. Since the very first move I’ve struggled with feeling like the new kid, the outsider who never quite belonged or had enough time to feel settled before she had to move again. Even into adulthood when the moves were my choice that feeling was stirred in the recesses of my heart.
Here it is again.
This time I’m wondering if that’s been the purpose all along. Maybe I’m not supposed to feel settled… Maybe I’ve been looking at it all wrong and there’s a bigger picture I haven’t seen. I’m pondering that idea while I enjoy our home for the time we have left. With the daily clutter packed/purged/thrown away it’s nice to have such a clean space, and I’m trying to figure out maintain it wherever we land next.

It’s beginning to look a lot like… ♫

Dare I say it? Christmas.

Christmas music has been playing in our local stores since November first. Yesterday the decorations were already up at the grocery store strip mall. I mean, really… it’s too early, even for this elf.

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE Christmas and everything that goes with it. I love shopping and wrapping and secrets and sparkly things and Christmas plays and lights… I really should have been an elf.  I was 10 years old  and in 5th grade when my (very mean) best friend insisted Santa wasn’t real. I still don’t believe her.

That’s me on the right, listening intently to what my future boss had to say. 😉

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Every Christmas Eve Mom would bundle us up and we’d pile into the car to go pick our Christmas tree. We’d drink hot chocolate while Daddy brought the tree into the house and set it in its stand. We’d make a big production of giving it lots of water, hang our stockings from the mantel and go to bed. I couldn’t sleep wondering if every noise I heard might be Santa on the roof. It’s a wonder I survived the anticipation at all.

Our first house in New Jersey was a wee little two-bedroom rancher. You could see the entire living room from our bedroom door. On Christmas morning my sister and I would fling open that door and freeze in absolute wonder. The bare tree we left in the stand was now fully decorated and lit, the only glow in the room, surrounded by presents. Pure magic!  >sigh<  Goose pimples.

 

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Our magical tree, 1968.

I was eight when we moved across town. Our new house had two stories and the impact of seeing that sight as we flew down the stairs on Christmas morning was a new brand of magic that didn’t disappoint.

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Christmas 1972: I’m the elf on the left. 

Two years later we moved to Florida,  and the tradition changed in a lot of ways, but Mom’s knack for the magical smoothed it over.

Then we grew up and learned a few things. Like Christmas trees are drastically discounted, or free, on Christmas Eve. And Mom and Dad had to wait until we were sleeping to begin decorating the tree, so they got maybe 30 minutes of sleep Christmas Eve. And it looks like a lot more presents when the room is only 8 feet wide. And the tree looks much bigger when you put it on the coffee table and you’re only four feet tall.
And knowing the secrets behind the magic makes it even stronger, because it was made with love.

But the best part of being a grown-up is that I get to make the magic now… after all, I did inherit Mom’s elf gene.

More Travel

The ANC Choir was leading an international mass choir for a conference in Orlando. My mom, sister, brother-in-love and niece met up with me there so Mom and Sis could sing with us. We even had dinner with a pal from high school who happened to be in Orlando all the way from the Boston area. We hadn’t seen each other in 30 years, but we all laughed and carried on as if we weren’t grown-ups yet.

While the choir headed back to Virginia on the choir bus I went home with my family. You can pack a lot into three days! Wave-running with my sister and her family, Cuban sandwiches, shopping with mom, lunch with my grandmother, and a day at the beach with the BFF. Mom drove me back to Virginia and my nephew came along for the ride to see the cousins.

Gramma Mary’s tiny hands. These hands taught us to cook and garden, tended our boo-boos, whacked our bottoms, and pulled our pony tails too tight.

 

A couple quilty friends and I caught wind of the Row By Row experience, and I decided to collect patterns while I was on the road. Mom got involved and it turned into a regular scavenger hunt as we searched the map to find which shops were on our travel routes. I even managed to hit a couple shops in Orlando between rehearsal and sound checks.  Our hunt came in handy on the road north –  quilt shop bathrooms tend to be much nicer than the ones at gas stations. Seeing as most of the rows I gathered were in Florida, and I grew up in Florida, I figured I’ll make a Florida quilt that includes all my favorite things from the Sunshine State: Sea turtles, space shuttles, hurricanes, beach cabanas and sunsets. I can’t wait to put it together!

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Summer’s in Swing

The Hunk and I  just returned from a trip to Louisiana to do some work for the folks at First Baptist Church of Chalmette. This is the same church we helped rebuild after Hurricane Katrina all but washed it away.  Our roots are in that church and they’re family now, so when Brother John sent out the call for summer help we timed the trip so we could celebrate our anniversary where our story together began.
He spent the week repairing a stone wall. I painted the foyer, did some cleaning and whatever else I was asked to help with. Not most folks’ idea of a romantic getaway, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

My hard working man. :)

The week wasn’t all work. I met up with the Domino Divas for some cutthroat domino play and didn’t come in last, which is saying something.  One night we saw the local high school’s production of  “Anything Goes” with some of the ladies from the church who paid our way as an anniversary gift.  And we didn’t leave without spending a day in the French Quarter, perusing the French Market and eating. Beignets, anyone?

Beignets at Cafe du Monde

I’ve been sewing up a storm – quilt tops are piling up waiting to be quilted. It feels good to be on a roll. I finished the quilt for my new cousin, Lily, and I was able to deliver it to her in person on our way to Louisiana.

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This week’s ta-da:  I finished the “forever” rug! I call it that because it has taken me, well, forever. Four years, actually, I think.  Now it’s home in my kitchen where it belongs! It feels like luxury on my toes.  I marched that thing out into the mudroom to showcase it on the beautiful brick steps the Hunk built. Isn’t it lovely? The red pops against that brick, doesn’t it?

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Summer marches on. One day I might actually get to the beach!

More Snow Days and a Special Birthday

More snow! I was doing the happy dance last night as the snow fell and fell and fell. At one point during the night I looked out the window and you couldn’t even see our street…. it was one, beautiful blanket of snow.  This morning we played a bit and shoveled the walk with the garden shovel, because I forgot the snow shovel broke and hasn’t been replaced yet. Oops.

Our driveway is completely hidden!

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The Hunk and I recently began our sponsorship journey through World Vision. Our refrigerator holds the treasures we’ve received in the mail from our sweet girl, Mercy. Mercy lives in Kenya, and I pray one day we will be able to visit her there.

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She will be 8 years old the end of March. I want to send her the world, but “packages” are limited to a 6″ x 9″ envelope… which doesn’t mean “package” to me at all.  I’ve already decided it will take more than one envelope to send her birthday gift.  For starts, I am making her a small doll. Her doll will have her own quilt, of course. Mercy has two sisters, so I think they will needs dolls (and quilts), too.

I encourage you to look into sponsoring a child through one of these amazing organizations. Mercy’s mama thanks us for caring for Mercy’s needs through our sponsorship…. but I want to thank her for sharing her precious daughter and allowing us to partner with her family in such a meaningful way.

Ringing in 2014

Happy New Year!

I can’t believe we’re already 5 DAYS IN to a new year! After playing hooky a little I’m finding re-entry a little rough, but I’m looking forward to this new year with expectation.

Last week I was thinking how I couldn’t wait to say good-bye to 2013 when God whispered in my ear, “It wasn’t all bad…” No, it wasn’t. The Lord remained unchanged, meeting every need and walking beside us through every trial, disappointment and twist in the road. We laughed, we cried, we played, we loved, we rallied, we said good-bye,  we learned, and we grew.

To celebrate, the Hunk and I spent New Year’s Eve at Christmas Towne.  I was trying to take a picture in front of the grand Christmas tree and failing miserably – phones aren’t shaped to hold in one hand AND push the button….  a very nice man offered to bail me out, so we have a memento of the occasion. It was 20 degrees, and we look like puffalumps in all our layers. 🙂

Wherever you are, may your home be filled with love and grace, and may 2014 be a year of Jubilee for you and yours.

Have Computer, Will Travel

September is one of my favorite months. Crisp breezes, open windows and the smell of apples wafting through the kitchen invigorate me like nothing else. I still can’t believe it’s here already. Friends are posting their fall decorations while I’m going, “Wait! It’s still 90 outside!”  This September will be even warmer than usual for me, because I’ll be spending it in Florida. My brother-in-law had a bone marrow transplant Friday, and I’m going to hold down the fort at my sister’s house so she can tend to her man.  I like to love on people in person, so I’m grateful for a job I can take anywhere.

I’m also going to a quilt retreat with a friend smack in the middle of my visit, so packing has been a challenge. I want to bring it all!  I’ve started a pile, and most of it is quilt-related, except for the bin with the yellow top. It’s full of art supplies for  this online class which I can’t wait to tackle. (That basket of quilts isn’t going, either…that’s just where they live)

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I’m a little dizzy with all that has to be done before I leave so not much is happening in the studio.  I finished this tote for my swap partner, and she likes it!  I kept changing my mind, so it has a couple “extras” that aren’t usually part of the design like the pieced straps and a pieced edge inside that doesn’t show here.

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AND I finished the tote I started at Quilt Camp last month. I matched up these cute birds from my stash, and I love it! The top didn’t turn out right, but I’m not ripping it out.  My paper stuff gets to travel with me in style.

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My computer and all its gadgetry get packed up tomorrow.  I think I will enjoy being unplugged for a couple days. Happy September!

Making Messes and 5 Things I Learned in July

I’m so bummed July is over!  I’ve barely started on my Summer list – the one with all the things I was going to do and try during the “lazy” summer months. >heavy sigh<  So far I’ve succeeded to make messes. Our mudroom is under construction, so I’ve spent every free moment prepping, painting and caulking instead of sewing and drawing. Looong story, but the new, improved mudroom will actually function as a mudroom and not take on water when it rains. This is priority #1, because the contents of this room are stacked in our living space. Emphasis on mess.
Last weekend I took a break and spent the day with my VBMQG peeps at Quilt Camp. I’m making Noodlehead’s Super Tote, and the plan was to come home with a finished project – then I hit a couple of snags, like forgetting to bring my Fasturn tool. I should have a contest to caption this image…
I also managed to put together this Wonky Shoo Fly tutorial for the guild and draft a couple new projects.
On top of all this creative genius, I learned 5 new things in July:
Bone marrow becomes fatty after age 44.  My brother-in-law is fighting Leukemia and preparing for a bone marrow transplant. We’re all learning a lot of things we didn’t know. Fatty bone marrow doesn’t graft well when transplanted, so younger marrow has a higher success rate.
I don’t like ginger in any form.  In 3rd grade the room mom came in to help everyone make gingerbread houses. The smell nauseated me so badly that it ruined me against ginger forever.  I use ginger very sparingly when I bake, and I have to hold my nose.  So thinking fresh ginger would be any different is proof of my optimistic nature (or what a dingbat I can be). I bought a small piece to add to my morning green juice and my tongue is still angry with me.
Deer make noise to warn one another. My back yard is the meadow, so we see deer several times a day. I always thought when one bolted in fear the others just somehow knew what was happening and followed. You know, deer ESP. Last week while in the garden I startled a mama out with her fawn, and I heard her screech like when you have something caught in the back of your throat. You can listen here.
Advertising pop-ups earn YouTube posters money… unless I click to skip it before it’s over. You might be shaking your head at me , laughing. That’s okay.  I never gave it much thought until I saw how a young man with an idea is now making his living making YouTube videos, and seeing the world while he’s at it.
Now I think it’s worth waiting 5 seconds to help someone to make a little jingle – especially because I use a LOT of video tutorials. It’s no secret I love Google, and my browser is on stand-by as I work, because there’s always a command I can’t remember or button I can’t find or something I don’t yet know how to do. I promise to be more patient from now on to thank those who take the time to post so I can find those quick answers!
I CAN be patient. That’s a big deal, because when I’m excited it kiiiiills me, like a kid at Christmas. But life has been kinda rocky for awhile and my plans keep getting rearranged, so I’m getting used to it and growing stronger faith muscles in the process. Some fun things are finally coming together, and it will be worth my patience. When it happens you’ll know!

Oklahoma on Our Hearts

The images coming out of Oklahoma give me itchy feet. Helping others rebuild is where my heart beats strong.

The Hunk and I actually first met back in 2007 on a construction site in Chalmette, Louisiana, where we worked to rebuild a church decimated by Hurricane Katrina. We returned to work on that site the following two years and had the honor of attending the opening service in the sanctuary we helped build. After sweating, crying, hoping, building, laughing and ministering together, we have a forever family in Chalmette and some stories you wouldn’t believe.

The hunk did a lot of that brick work, and built the sign out front (left). 

We want to pick up and go when the call comes. Not just once a year, but regularly as the Lord calls. As we embark on an empty nest, I want to be more intentional about ordering our life in a way that makes us even more available to serve.  It’s not out of reach, but it will take planning and focus to put feet to our hearts’ desire.

Fortunately, there are organizations in place that do just that – organize and plan to make the most from our offerings. If you have an itch to help, but don’t know where to begin, Ed Stetzer posted a great intro to getting involved in disaster relief.  His tips hold true for any kind of rebuilding mission.  This is HARD work, y’all, but the most rewarding work we’ve ever done.

Ready to roll up your sleeves? You can sign up with Samaritan’s Purse volunteer network.

Lastly, do not underestimate the act of giving financially. It takes money to rebuild. Lots of money. There is no such thing as a “small” contribution. Here are some wonderful folks who will handle your donations with integrity:
Disaster Relief Oklahoma 
Convoy of Hope
The Salvation Army
Operation Blessing

Rebuilding takes time, and our friends in Oklahoma will be picking up the pieces long after the rest of us have fallen back into our normal routines. Each visit we made to Louisiana revealed how little could change while so much was being accomplished. And they continue to re-build.

If you have a heart to serve in any capacity, can I encourage you to take the next step toward action? I don’t want to sit on my couch wishing I could do something. I want to be ready to do something. Will you join me?

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Dresses for Africa

My friend, Lynne, came over to get my help whipping up a couple samples of these little pillow case dresses her congregation will be making to send to Africa. Oh. Em. Gee. they are all sorts of adorable. And addictive! Once we started sewing we saw oodles of creative possibility to make them special.
This was our first attempt –  it is a large. We used the extra-large arm hole size because the pattern looked sooo small, but once assembled we realized the pattern makers knew what they were doing. Imagine that. 😉

There is also a pattern to make shorts for boys from a t-shirt and some elastic.The beauty of this project is you don’t need to be part of a group or make a minimum to participate. You can find all the details on the Little Dresses for Africa site.