Thursday, December 31, 2015

Talitha Cumi: Last Quilt of 2015

In Mark 5:41 Jesus brings a young girl back from the dead when He says, "Talitha, cumi."  (Tuh-LEE-thuh KOO-mee). It means "little girl, arise."

Back in the summer, my friend Lauren and her husband received devastating news: their baby girl --only six months old--had brain cancer. When Lauren heard it from the doctor,  she ran to a waiting room, fell facedown and bawled and screamed (she gives permission to tell this) and completely "lost it" for several minutes.

Then, as audibly as a human standing there speaking, a voice said "Talitha cumi." She knows it was Lord speaking. Immediately a peace flooded over her soul, and hope filled her, although she didn't understand what the phrase meant. She got up and began to gain strength for the battle ahead.

Lauren and her husband researched the phrase "Talitha cumi"  when they got home. "Little girl, arise."  From then on, they've held onto the belief that Sophia will be healed of cancer.

At the time when I heard the news, I happened to be on vacation to my husband's side of the family in Ohio.  Our oldest niece is a maker and seller of children's clothing and her name is--get this--Talitha.
(Her parents like the sound of it and that it means "little girl.")

 Talitha had recently bought a Janome Skyline sewing machine which I was all too eager to try out. She gave me some bright, cheery scraps from her stash, and I began sewing them together into a string quilt.

That quilt became what I worked on when I wasn't making doll quilts or home dec things. I prayed for Sophia and her family every time I sewed.

The backing is pink doggie flannel. Sophia loves dogs, and flannel is soft, warm and cozy. Those chemo rooms get very chilly.

I sewed a heart to the upper corner of the front side and stitched the words "Talitha Cumi" on it.

Then I labeled it, wrapped it and gave it to my friend Lu to give to her daughter Lauren to give to Sophia for her first birthday. That was in mid-December.

Sophia is doing all right. She's home for now. Her cancer is aggressive, but the treatments are proving helpful. And we hold onto the hope that Lauren found in scripture: Talitha cumi.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Ties that Bind in the Year-End Hodgepodge

 Here we are, folks, at the last Hodgepodge of 2015 on the penultimate day of the year. (Not only do I have a penchant for pens, I have a penchant for the word "penultimate".) 

Anyway, big shout out to our hostess, Joyce, who has kept rolling out the questions each week, give or take a holiday ,as the calendar pages have kept flipping faster than a trout on a fishing line.

1. Share a favorite memory/moment from the week of Christmas.

For sentimental reasons, I loved having all my kids together for Christmas Eve service at my sons' church. 

For funny reasons, my favorite memory was during the gift exchange. My little niece was here and I was eager to see her open the pair of winter boots and some Hello Kitty slippers (which she calls "spurs") that I bought for her.  My sister has trained her, by example, to say "ooooooh!" (very sing-songy) when the present is opened. Well, Jordan would start with the "oooooh!" as soon as she ripped the first piece of wrapping paper off.  It's quite the hilarious build-up coming from a 2 and 1/2 year old.  

Then, the very second she saw her new pink and purple boots, she started peeling off her dress shoes. Then she grabbed out the first boot, tried to put it on, then looked up at me and asked, "Hee-ulp?" (Help?) That little Midwestern drawl that she has picked up from my sister and my mom is just too cute.  I  gave her hee-ulp with the left boot and then she wanted hee-ulp with the right boot. As soon as her boots were zipped up, she exclaimed, "Walk!" then got up and started her sporting the new boots.  Lacy, frilly Christmas dress and all. 


2.  If someone wrote a book about your life based on the past year, what genre would it fall under? What would the title be?

Genre: Non-fiction, inspirational
Title:  When Grown Children Pastor their Parents: A Story of the Healing of a Marriage and Family by the Grace of God

We celebrated our 29th wedding anniversary by going away on the 27th and 28th (the latter being our actual Day)  and it felt really, really special.  It's like I can't get enough of my man these days. He pretends not to like so much attention, but we know better. (Wink, wink.) We went to St. Michael's, Maryland--a quaint, fishing town on the Eastern Shore. (I found out while visiting that The Wedding Crashers movie was filmed there.)
Monday evening we ate the Harbor Tavern, al fresco, by the fireplace. Yes, we'd had 68 degrees during the day and the night air was comfortable with this romantic fire so close.  I was having a bad hair day, but --oh well. Does it matter when you're in love? (Hubby hates selfies, so I have to catch him in the first three tries or he's done.)

3. What made you feel patriotic this year?

Seeing men and women in uniform. Still proud to serve their country. Still sacrificing for freedom. Almost every time I see someone in fatigues when I'm out and about, I'll make the effort to shake their hand and thank them for their service. 

4. What experience from this past year would you like to do all over again?

Visit my sister in Kentucky.  And not just because she has turned a log cabin into the coziest, warmest, most beautiful home in the middle of lush, green countryside with horses grazing. (And she did it herself while facing an impending divorce.)  But I'd do it all over for the closeness we now have as sisters that was lacking before on a spiritual level.  She and I could never talk together about the Lord and things of God because she was calloused toward Him. My depression interfered with experiencing the fullness of His love, too. However, we both had personal transformations that drew us back to God and, as a result, to each other. Suddenly we were encouraging each other with scripture and devotional passages. We were connecting at a heart level as never before. What we have in common is not just our parents and siblings anymore. 

Spending time with her, seeing her joy despite the incredible betrayal and anger and extreme sadness caused by her ex, was exactly what she and I needed this past summer. 

5. What song lyric sums up or is a reflection of your 2015?

When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll, 
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

6. On a scale of 1-10 how would you rate 2015?  (10=stellar) Why?

First half, 5.  Second half 10.  So let's meet halfway and call it  a 7.5.

7. What part of the upcoming year are you most excited about?

Well, right now, as I write this, my husband is six days away from a major heart surgery. I am at peace, but it makes one think harder as never before, about life and death, life after death, life after an extreme operation. So to think about being "excited" in the new year is relative.  

I have been praying for a grandchild, and while there has been no announcement, I am in faith that 2016 will bring either a baby or the glad waiting during pregnancy. 

8. Insert your own random thought here.

All I ask is for prayer for my dear husband and our family for next Tuesday and following. It's sure to be a difficult road to recovery, but this surgery is meant to prevent a ruptured aorta. He'll be operated on by one of the top three cardiac surgeons in the world and is ultimately in the Best Hands --those of the Great Physician. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Embraced in 2015

This time of year I ask God to reveal a special word for me to hold onto, to ponder, welcome, write about, and live. This past year the word was "embrace."

 I embraced change --not eagerly. I selfishly didn't want my daughter to move to Florida, but she has been thriving there in the area of trusting God. 

Thanks to my sons who pastor their parents sometimes, and for my daughters who intercede, I embraced forgiveness and freedom from strongholds which meant first repenting of unbelief (that of thinking some things would never change for the good, no matter what).

 I embraced a new job that I love, tutoring Chinese kids I've come to love and who now understand something about Jesus, starting with how his name is pronounced! 

Rather than resist, I embraced turning 50, and the grey hairs that began multiplying with each sunrise. I turned my back on my pride that would cause me to do things the "safe way," the familiar way, where I would operate in my strengths rather than embracing my weaknesses and working to strengthen them. 

I embraced a ministry that requires several hours a month to feed homeless and/or needy people, and I look forward to creating many more tasty meals with my ministry partner Debbie who is also a "theme girl". 

I embraced the reality that we will all face death, and some of us the death of a spouse, so I got serious about my marriage as never before, embracing my husband as my best friend and not trying to change him any more but to love him more than ever before. ( I'm a slow study--took me 28.5 years to accept us both as we are.) 

I embraced the signing of a will-- which I'd dreaded, but which ended up being a huge relief and a gift to us and our children and future grandchildren.

Most importantly, I have embraced the love of God and the firm belief that He is not angry with me any more, and that I can't "do more and be better" in order to please Him. He delights in me because I'm His. I never got that before. Bits and pieces, yes, but my past was always tripping me up. I used fall asleep under a blanket of guilt, of having not measured up. Now I fall asleep telling God I love Him and Asking Him to sing me to sleep, or by praying for others till I can't anymore because I'm asleep. I've embraced a love for Him, for my family, for my friends, for strangers, that was lacking before this year. It was there but I wasn't embracing full-on love because I was afraid of being hurt, or criticized. I feel like I'd been in a cocoon, self-protective, barely growing. But in 2016 there's been a personal metamorphosis in my life-- I broke out of that cocoon and grew wings. This metamorphosis can be summed up in the word "embrace." Praise to the One who has created this miraculous change! 

Jesus loves me, this I know!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Marcy's Quintet, Kaleidoscope, and Jesus Loves Me Quilts

In mid-November, I finished three baby doll quilts for Operation Christmas Child. I get so much pleasure out of making these, imagining the little girls who will receive them and pretend to be mommies. 

This first one of five butterflies I have named Marcy's Quintet.  My husband is one of five kids (all boys) and their mother's name was Marcella. People close to her called her Marcy.

One night I just wanted to sew mindlessly for the thrill of the humming machine. No pattern, I started sewing brightly colored strips together. I used the popsicle fabric colors as a color palette. Once I finished making five random sets, it was time to make a template. Sure, I could've used the internet to download an image, but I can draw--or so I thought. I wasn't getting the look I wanted. So what do I do when I'm stuck? I call one of my resident artists.
 My son free-handed a butterfly template for me. He's so funny; it took him five seconds to draw one and then he tossed the pencil down and said, "Bam! Done!" 

 I machine appliqued the butterflies onto a blue-sky fabric background. I used echoing for the quilting with a few random hearts in the blank areas. I didn't want the quilting too dense because that will stiffen the quilt. Puffy and fluffy is how I like them. 

The second one, a bit smaller, is simply called "Jesus Loves Me."  Though the smallest, 
it gave me the most problems. I don't remember all of them, but the plaid fabric kept wanting to stretch, and I couldn't find a backing I loved. Yes, I know it's "just a doll quilt" and shouldn't matter, but it does. Every design decision is important to me. 

While trying to decide, I happened to see a contest on a quilting forum. 
The lady was giving away fabric bundles from her stash,  under one condition: that you really wanted or needed the fabric and would pay it forward. If your name was picked, it was yours. I took one look at the butterfly fabric with all the same colors as the front of the Jesus Love Me quilt, and entered my name. Winning was such a thrill! To have 
an immediate place to "pay it forward" felt like  a God thing. 

To quilt it, I did some meandering and also FMQ'ed (free motion quilted) some 
daisies . Far from perfect, but that's the point of these little quilts. They are my 
practice fields.

This string quilt was a lot of fun to make. But when it was finished, I had a hard time thinking of a name. Normally that's the easy part. So I posted it on Facebook and immediately had
several people say "Kaleidoscope." So, that's what it is.  I  did more meandering for this one .

                         I used a longish strip and made a label which I sewed into the binding.
                                         John 3:16 is the reference I always include on my labels.

 Ultimately the doll quilts went into shoeboxes as gifts through Operation Christmas Child. I bought Hispanic baby dolls from Discount School Supply.

Since I used the "track it" option with Samaritan's Purse, I'll be able to see where these three boxes end up. I can hardly wait.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Trivia and Tragedy in a Holiday Hodgepodge

1.  Many families have a story they love to tell every year around a holiday. Does your family have one? Are you the star of that story, or does another family member take center stage? Share your story if you want.

Great question.  I'd say if there's one story we tell, it's on Valentine's Day, the day my last baby was born. He was wanted and prayed for, for 10 years.  Believing that God had directed our steps to adopt from China, we proceeded with that way of enlarging our family. 

We were about to mail the adoption application the very day I found out I was pregnant. 

Over the phone I told the news to my husband, who was in shock and disbelief. It took him a few minutes, but once it sank in, he said, "Why don't you call the agency and see if we can adopt a baby and have a biological baby the same year?"  I blurted out, "Why don't you ask ME first??!!" 

2. Are you afraid to speak your own opinion?

I'm rarely afraid to speak my opinion, and I used to do it quite a bit more often than I do now. I'm more discerning about what needs to be expressed and what isn't so important.  On very significant issues,  I have learned the hard way that speaking my opinion can cost me. But if someone asks my opinion, I freely offer it. Many times it has helped total strangers in a store decide between two options because I tell them why I prefer one thing over another.

3. Pantone has announced the color of the year for 2016, and for the first time have chosen two shades-rose quartz and serenity. Hmmm...did you know serenity was a color? You can read the thought behind their selection here, but essentially it's blending the warmth of rose quartz with the tranquility of a very soft shade of blue. So what do you think? Are these colors I'd find in your home or wardrobe? Will you add something in these shades to either place in the new year?

I love those colors, but I had to chuckle about the name "serenity."  It so happens that there is a brand of bladder control pads called Serenity. 

At any rate, my wardrobe features several shades of pink and blue, but my house doesn't, except for my sewing room. I'm sure I'll add something of the color to my wardrobe since I gravitate to them anyway. 

4. If you could be in a Christmas carol, which one would you choose? Why?

Tongue in cheek,  Mary in "Away in a Manger" because the "little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes."  Puh-LEASE! The little Lord Jesus was a normal baby who got hungry (and cried, I'm sure), peed his diaper (and cried, no doubt), and had gas pains from when Mary ate broccoli for dinner.  But it sure is a nice thought that I could be the mother of a no-crying newborn!

5. December 9th is National Pastry Day. Will you celebrate? When did you last purchase something from a bakery? What's your favorite treat that falls under the heading of pastry? Do you make it yourself or buy from the professionals?

I could easily be talked into celebrating National Pastry Day. The last item I purchased from a bakery was a Bear Claw.  I had stopped in to our little town  bakery for an apple turnover. I had such a hankering for a flaky crust with a warm apple center, but they had no apple turnovers. So I settled for the Bear Claw because I love sticky cinnamon rolls.  Our town's  bakery   just this week announced it's closing its door this month forever after 60 years in business. That bakery made my wedding cake 29 years ago in an emergency (which is a story I could tell every year!) . 
I leave the truly light-and-flaky treats to the professionals because I just never mastered the art of making perfect crusts.

6. When it comes to holiday decorating there are many opinions I keep to myself when driving by certain houses that have 12-foot inflatable Santas swaying on the front lawn like they've gotten into the eggnog way too early.  

7. When did you last laugh so much it hurt? Explain.

I was reading on Facebook a few weeks ago one of those posts featuring texts between parents and kids when autocorrect made awkwardly hilarious changes. Laughed so hard the tears ran down my leg. I was wheezing with the occasional scream of laughter. My son finally had to come into the room to see what was so funny. I couldn't show him. 

I have one of my own bloopers.  My son had outgrown some school uniforms, so I arranged with the mother of a younger student to bring them at dismissal one afternoon.  That particular day the boy's father was picking him up.   (We carpool with this family so I have both of their cell phone numbers.)  

When I parked in the pick-up lane, I texted Bob.  OH, but thank GOODNESS I proofread my text before I sent it. 

I meant to write, "Hi, Bob. I have clothes for you." 

 Autocorrect changed "clothes" to "urges."

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

On a serious note, I want to share a tragic event that just happened  Sunday.  I ask you to pray. My husband and I have an old friend who is a youth pastor in the inner city of Baltimore.  He holds Sidewalk Sunday School and he drives the church bus to and from the city to the suburbs where his church is.  People who couldn't otherwise get to church get on his bus. 

This past Sunday a single mother named Miriah dedicated her four young children to the Lord at a special service. The kids (three girls and a boy) range in age from 3-8 .   Miriah was telling Ed (while cleaning up the church kitchen  with him after the luncheon) that she wanted to live for God and raise her children for Him. She had given her life to Christ two weeks ago. 

After the service,  Ed dropped her and the kids off at their home in West Baltimore. Five minutes later someone came to her door. She must have assumed it was Ed returning with something she'd left on the bus. Instead, it was a gunman who shot her in the leg in front of her kids. She turned and began running up the stairs, but he shot her in the back.  Killed her. 

The man fled and has not been captured .No one knows his motive.

But the children are now living with their grandmother in a one-bedroom retirement apartment. Can you fathom this?? I am sick, sad, heartbroken, and angry over this senseless violence. Four young children suddenly orphaned. 

The church has set up a fund to help give Miriah a proper burial, and to take care of the children financially for a while during this terrible time. If you'd like to donate, go here:  
(The oldest boy in the photo is their cousin who jumped into the group and exclaimed, "I want to belong to Jesus, too!" Ed and his wife were so happy they let him stay in the photograph,)

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

A Tropical Christmas Hodgepodge

Last night I returned from sunny Florida where I'd gone with my daughter.  I'll be writing a post about it if I get around to it, but here's a sneak peek.

Keep in mind,  I took this selfie on November 30th in St. Petersburg, at high noon. I can assure you I have never been wearing short sleeves, sunglasses, and flip-flops in Maryland on November 30th. Nothing felt better than 81 blazing degrees.

1. Did you watch The Charlie Brown Christmas special Monday night? Who's your favorite Peanuts character and why?

I did not. I was a house guest in a home where TV is not watched. It was quite pleasant being "unplugged" from it, I'll say. But I do love me some Charlie Brown Christmas . My favorite is Linus. His voice gets me every time . His simple message of "what Christmas is all about" sticks with me. Christ the Savior is born.

"Most psychiatrists agree that sitting in a pumpkin patch is excellent therapy for a troubled mind."~Linus  

Would you agree? 

No, not a pumpkin patch. I would get itchy and freaked out by bugs and squashed squash. But, if we can stretch the metaphor to include a different spot in nature of some sort, then yes. I  wholeheartedly agree. I'm all about sitting near water, basking in the sunshine, watching seabirds catch fish. 

                                                                    I had no trouble enjoying this view. 

2. Describe a sound from your childhood. What does this sound bring to mind? 

The ringing of a bicycle bell. I had one on my 3-speed  in third grade and rang it like I was auditioning for a Salvation Army job. I'm sure all the neighbors around town knew who was riding by every time they heard that incessant ring-ring, ring-ring, ring-ring

3. You've won a trip to a winter wonderland...would that excite you? Which one of the following would you most want to experience (or which one would you dislike the least)-see the Aurora Borealis in Norway, stay in Sweden's Ice Hotel, go dogsledding in Lapland Finland, take a winter wildlife safari in Yellowstone or celebrate Winter Carnival in Quebec? 

Um, excite me? I can't say that much excites me in the winter except Christmas and then an anniversary getaway with my man of almost 29 years. And the first snowfall. And a blizzard that makes us hunker down together as a family for board games and hot chocolate.  

Of the choices listed, I think I could maybe put on my big-girl thermal panties for a dog sledding adventure. I love dogs and admire the strength and perseverence of huskies, and their pure joy at doing a job they were born to do. And I think I could enjoy a trip for two (accompanied by a third wheel, so to speak, who actually knows what he is doing) in Finland on a dog sled. 

4. Who or what keeps you humble? 

Back pain. Oh, my. When it takes an adult child to help you stand up from your beach blanket, that's humbling. 

5. What part of preparing for Christmas do you like the most? Explain. 

Finding a gift for someone that is so "them" --a surprise, not something they've asked for, and anticipating their delight when they open it. 

6. Gingerbread-yay or nay? Is making a gingerbread house part of your family holiday tradition?

Yay for gingerbread, but nay to the tradition of making houses. Graham cracker housemaking is fun for me to watch, and I can foresee helping future grandchildren with that activity while their parents get stuff done. But it was a big mess that I didn't enjoy making with my own children. Spectating while other adults supervised them was fine, though. I hate, hate, hate having sticky fingers. 

7. What's one thing you want to start, do, or complete before the calendar rolls into a new year? 

Sounds morbid, but write our will. This is the year it must be done.

8.  Insert your own random thought here. 

To tickle your funny bone, let me share the lyrics of a certain four-year-old earlier this week.  

Silent night, a hole in the night, ....