Falling in Love with Home

Fall. The word itself evokes a sense of coziness and an urge to sit with my knees drawn to my chest and a warm mug of coffee cocooned in my hands. The morning air startles me with a slight chill as I step out onto the screened porch with a delusional Yorkie who is desperate to catch the fat but nimble squirrel on the deck. By noon I’ll be wearing shorts and blasting the ac in my oh-so-awesome Sienna, but I’ll take it while I can. We have the best of both worlds here in the south, really.

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This time of year more than any other makes me want to burrow into my little nest with my people. Fall decorations are my favorite with multi-colored leaves, baskets, and fat orange pumpkins. Yellow mums pop like sunshine against the red brick steps on my porch (assuming I don’t forget to water them. Again.) A vintage quilt as varied as Joseph’s coat tossed across a rocking chair invites me to actually sit for a minute and just be.

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Say what you will about the pumpkin spice craze, but there’s a reason for it. Pumpkin spice creamer in hot coffee makes a breakfast dessert (is that a thing?) Then there are the donuts, umber-colored and dusted with sugar and spice and everything nice. Pumpkin ice cream tops warm apple pie like nobody’s business. Pumpkin scented candles are like tiny bonfires you can burn right on your desk while they fragrance your home, and who in their right mind doesn’t love that idea?

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October offers a tiny lull in this interim between summer pool parties and holiday festivities. A comforting rhythm ticks off the days as big yellow buses crawl along the road filled with rambunctious children morning and afternoon. The school bus doesn’t stop here since our school can’t be contained in brick and mortar, but it reminds us that we are part of the same cadence. My final home school senior and I linger over bowls of Cheerios and mugs of coffee as we ponder the Lost Colony and its fate, why penny candy no longer costs a penny, and whether the new SAT represents a fair scale by which to judge a person’s potential. Dual enrollment classes at a local university fill out our afternoons, and then sooner every day,  the sun slips low behind the rim of woods around our home.

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My mom always reminds me that, “A house is just a house, but it takes a whole lot of living to make a home.” We have lived a lot of seasons in this particular house, and it has become the epicenter for all the parts that make the whole. But the real heart of home is in the gathering, and the sharing, and the laughing- and sometimes crying. As the leaves begin to let go, the sense of melancholy that fall seems to carry with it makes the anchor of home so much sweeter. We need the retreat from the brisk evening air into a kitchen that smells like homemade potato soup and sounds like love. In a world overrun with chiming reminders to check email and screens that cast a pallor on our faces, we are desperate for rest. Fall is God’s way of bringing us into that place of rest and joy in the harvest, whether you grew vegetables or, more importantly, as a family.

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A Revelation

It occurs to me as I lie here in a recliner,  forced into stillness by a shoulder surgery this week,  that my family is right when they say that I do not take time for myself. I tend to think,  and rather pridefully, that the world will stop spinning on its axis if I cease my frenzy. And so,  as others have just watched the finale of Downton Abbey, I have had to start over with the season one DVD because it has been so long since I saw an episode,  I needed to be reintroduced.  Who has had time for the guilty pleasure of watching something just for me?
My blog is deserted, even though I think about it in the corner of my mind where all of my unfinished projects haunt me. There’s always something more important, more pressing, to do.  Laundry, clean bathrooms, preparation for the chemistry class I teach at co-op, my job at the hospital as a nurse with its incessant demands, homeschool lessons, dirty bathrooms… And yet,  all of those things still exist as I sit sidelined,  and somehow the world is still clicking right along while I sit here with one arm in a sling and Lady Mary snubbing Cousin Matthew on my flat screen. Huh. Imagine that.

Saturday is NOT a Day Off!

Sleeping in,  you say?  What’s that like?  It’s Saturday. A rainy, dark Saturday with wind blowing small trees into feathery arcs bending and waving wildly.  A steady staccato lulls me back into unconsciousness even as my hand reluctantly leaves the blankets to shush my alarm clock for the third time.  I force my eyes open and roll from the bed, my feet thudding onto the carpet. It’s Saturday.

I spend almost all of them this way.  It’s the choice we made when we decided thirteen years ago to home educate our children.   But then some well-meaning friend posts a cute reminder on Facebook to remember that there are only 940 Saturdays between my children’s births and their eighteenth birthdays.  And my heart feels like it just collapsed into a smashed prune, for just a few minutes, as I contemplate the loss of all those glorious Saturday mornings with snuggles and cartoons and picnics and mundane trips to Target.

And then I remember. There is nothing magical about Saturdays unless you have also squandered the Mondays-Fridays. There may be 940 Saturdays, but there are approximately 5,634 other days to read stories, eat ice cream, have tickle fights, kiss little noses, go to Target, and have discussions that fill your heart with more love than it can hold. So make every day count- whether or not you can call its name “Saturday.”

Family time spent carving pumpkins on a day that wasn't a Saturday- about 2,555 days ago!
Family time spent carving pumpkins on a day that wasn’t a Saturday- about 2,555 days ago!

(And guess what just happened? Saturday just slipped into Sunday before I could get this posted, because I was enjoying watching a football game on the couch with my crazy bunch even if the day did mostly consist of being a nurse instead of a mom!)

Summer of Sprucing up the Homestead- Ruffled Curtains DIY!

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Sitting on the screened porch with the sounds of my pool’s filtering system humming, birds calling, and squirrels rattling the leafy branches above me, project plans race through my mind. I have been at a stand-still on my kitchen ever since the post with the before pictures in January. Between homeschooling, my daughter, teaching a chemistry class at our co-op, driving a child back and forth to college classes for the past two months after his car inexplicably decided to die, leading a ladies’ Bible study through Esther (AWESOME!), working 12 hour days on weekends (even some extra shifts) taking care of MORE people at the hospital, and just generally trying to keep my house going, I had not found time to sew my curtains and finish what we started. (Lazy. That’s how I felt when I had any spare time. Flat out LAZY. My husband says it’s called TIRED.) Until now.

Last week, I had a ball sewing the cutest ruffle curtains to go in my kitchen. And at last there is color. I still have a few things to do to the kitchen, but here are my curtains along with a little tutorial on how to make some yourself, if you get an urge. If you do find yourself with an urge, I would like to encourage you to act on it quickly. Summer has a way of sucking us into a heat-induced semi-coma that leaves us sitting on the front porch sipping ice tea and watching those afore-mentioned squirrels playing tag in the yard. At least that is my idea of a nice evening here in the south. Y’all might have different plans if you are not so fortunate as to live here. Anyway, here is the finished product, along with the pictorial.

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So, let’s get started. This is not a hard project, even for a beginner, but it does require a little patience to get all these ruffles ruffled without getting a little ruffled yourself. Sorry. It was too easy.

  1. Step one is really just cutting a basic flat panel to the measurements of your window that serves as a backdrop for all those pretty little pieces of fabric that make your ruffles. I used a piece of white heavy cotton that I had in my sewing cabinet left over from who-knows-what. I don’t have a picture of this because I was not concentrating on making my blog post when I started this project. It just occurred to me as I got into it that someone might want to make one, and I should tell them how. So hopefully, you are comfortable cutting a rectangle to the measurements that you want and hemming it all around. Fold down the top and make a pocket for your rod. So don’t forget to allow room for said hem and pocket when you measure and cut. Now, let’s get to the fun part.
  2. Step two- Think about how many ruffles you will need to fill your panel. If you want to use several colors, like I did, lay out your fabric and see what order you think looks best. Don’t put two tiny prints together, or it may look too busy. I separated my checks and polka dots with a bigger print. The measurements for the height of each ruffle can vary, but a good height would be 7 inches tall. I cut two 7″ strips across the width of the fabric for each layer of ruffles. (For the one on the back door, I did 10″ tall strips because I wanted it to be longer and cover the window. I don’t like people seeing me in my jammies drinking coffee at 10am when they come to my door. I mean 6am. Definitely not 10am.) My fabric was 45″ wide, which is pretty standard for cottons, and I had to sew two strips end to end for each layer. You need each ruffle to start out being about two and half times the width of your panel so that when you gather it, it will be nice and fluffy. Wimpy ruffles just aren’t as appealing. Again, sorry about the lack of photo evidence for this step. In the next step, my brain kicked in for a blog post, and I began to take pics.
  3. Step three- after you have sewn the strips end to end (see previous step), it’s time to get out ye olde iron and begin ironing down a small hem around the sides and bottom of the strip. Don’t bother hemming the top. I never bother to measure, fold, and pin the hem on things like this, because it is so much easier and pretty accurate for me to just use my left hand to fold/roll the hem as I follow it with my iron. Unless it’s a dress. Then it freaks me out not to measure and get my hem straight. But not for this project, because ruffles are so gathered, you aren’t going to be assessing the hem for perfection. Anyway, here’s a photo of me, ironing a piece. Because you might want to look at it. And now is a good time for a break for your eyes from all of these words anyway.IMG_8941 IMG_8940
  4. So now that you have ironed nice, crisp edges, you can hem them all around using matching thread. Use matching thread. We don’t want tacky hems. Then comes the fun part. Set your sewing machine’s straight stitch to the longest stitch, because now we are going to make a basting stitch across the unfinished top edge. When you reach the end of the stitch, don’t back-stitch. Just stitch right to the end, leave a few inches and cut. Oh! And I did this in two sections because that is a really long way to stitch and pray that it doesn’t break. To reduce the chances of such an occurrence, I stitched to the seam where I had sewn the two pieces together to make one really long piece. Remember that step from above? In other words, I would stop at about the half-way mark with the baste stitch and then start another one.

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    P.S.- Don’t be confused because the fabric changed colors. I am not a wizard. It is just another of the many pieces I used to make ruffles. I told you, I kept forgetting/didn’t want to stop because I was so excited to be finally sewing something again!
  5.  Now comes the fun part. You now take one thread- the bobbin thread- and gently begin to pull it. Now you are a wizard. Your straight, flat strip begins to pucker and gather into an adorable little ruffle. The trick here is to pull slowly so that your thread doesn’t break (don’t even think it!), and stop to carefully move the fabric along the thread, pushing the gathers back to beginning of the piece.

    Ta da! We are back to this color piece! Ignore fabric colors in this tutorial. The steps are in proper order, even if my model keeps changing her clothes.
    Ta da! We are back to this color piece! Ignore fabric colors in this tutorial. The steps are in proper order, even if my model keeps changing her clothes.
  6. Once you have it all gathered to fit the width of your background panel, and you are happy with the way your ruffle looks, (you may need to spread them out a little if you have areas that are flatter than others) it’s time to pin it. For this part, flip your sweet little ruffle wrong side up and upside down on the panel. For the first ruffle, make sure you have place it with the raw, gathered edge just beneath the seam for the curtain rod pocket. It would be a darn tragedy to sew that shut at this point. I would do something crazy like that if I was hyper-focused on something else, like taking careful pics for my blog. I didn’t because I wasn’t. I’ll try to think of you more next time.
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    This is the first layer of ruffles at the top of the panel. Surprise! It really is orange.

     

  7. You can check the pins on the back of the panel and see if you have it on straight. IMG_8953Now that you have it pinned, carefully sew it to the panel. Don’t forget to shorten your stitch setting on your machine so that it will hold to the panel. A basting stitch wouldn’t do a good job of that. Then all this tedious ruffle making would be down the drain. And you would be mad. And your curtain would be a Pinterest fail, which might at least be good for a few good laughs. Also, when you get to the subsequent layers of ruffles, be careful not to sew a ruffle that folded back on the panel to the back of it. Picking out errant stitches is a pain in the you-know-what. Ask me how I know. I guess I was thinking of my blog some. And no, there is no picture of that moment.
  8. For the next layer, pin the piece again, face-down and upside down. Have it overlap the edge of the one above by just a little bit so that the panel behind it is covered. I should have overlapped my top two pieces just a wee bit more, but it turned out okay. The bottom ruffle should hang just past the bottom of the panel.

    Let the hem of the second piece overlap the raw edge of the one above it just a little to cover the white panel and prevent it from peeking through.
    Let the hem of the second piece overlap the raw edge of the one above it just a little to cover the white panel and prevent it from peeking through.
  9. When you have sewn your last piece on and all the fluffy adorable-ness delights you like a flamenco dancer, you can lay the whole panel on the ironing board and iron down just the top, teensy edge of each ruffle so that they lay nicely. Like maybe the top quarter inch or so. you don’t want to iron the whole thing. or you’ll end up with a bunch of mashed down, creased fabric that looks like someone slept on it when you weren’t looking. And just like that, you have a cute new window treatment!
    Remember- just a teensy edge! No need to squash it!
    Remember- just a teensy edge! No need to squash it!

    And here again, is the finished product! IMG_8979

Finding True North

 

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As another homeschool year comes to a close, I am struck with the usual flood of combined panic and relief. The panic sucks the breath out of me as I realize how short is the time that I have left with the baby of the family before she is flying. I run through a mental catalog of things I mean to teach her and do with her before it is over. And this time when I graduate this third student of Homeway Academy, it really is over. Poor child. She is my last one, and because of it I think the emotions are far more tangled than even the previous two times I aimed an arrow at adulthood. The relief I mentioned is a mere flash within my chest when I think of summer days by the pool reading and fun stuff to replace the badgering about unfinished algebra or chemistry lessons.

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It is too easy to lose our focus in the rush to include everything our children need to know to succeed in life. I become a homeschooling Martha, my perfectionism on full display as I fret over what isn’t instead of rejoicing over what is. I quickly suck the joy out of learning when I give in to this tendency, and then wonder where the thrill of learning went! As we wrap up the loose ends this year, I realize that I need to reset my compass.

A compass is best used in conjunction with a map to find True North, as sometimes the needle that points the way can be off by a few degrees. Traveling steadily a few degrees in the wrong direction soon leads us way off course. Where are we trying to go? How will we reach our destination without a properly calibrated compass to keep us on track?

Thirteen years ago, my husband and I felt a strong conviction to homeschool our children because we wanted to raise our family according to the precepts set forth in the Word of God. A big part of that was a commitment to academic excellence through instilling a love of learning and the ability to find for themselves anything they needed to know as they grew. The biggest part, however, was that we wanted to raise children who love the Lord and seek Him. Remembering the purpose of the journey helps set the course. Let’s look at how to accomplish our goals in light of that purpose.

  • Instilling a Love of Learning-  This one can be tricky! We cannot force love for something on anybody. What we can do, however, is work on our presentation of it. For example, a chef can make a platter of ordinary macaroni and cheese look like a fancy dinner with the addition of some garnishes and a pretty platter. When we introduce a new topic to our children, do we approach it in a no-nonsense, “here it is, get it done” way? Or even worse, do we apologize for it and undermine the child’s enthusiasm from the beginning? “I’m sorry. I hated math, too. The sooner you start, the sooner it will be over.” Instead, try garnishing it! Smile as you announce the next thing on your agenda. Pique the child’s interest in the new history unit by making it a mystery. Hide a small lantern and a toy horse in a box to announce a study of Paul Revere and open it with a flourish.  Write the day’s reading assignment for ancient Egypt on a piece of paper and roll it like a scroll. Take your high school student to McDonalds for a milk shake while she finishes her algebra lesson in a booth. Most of all, listen to your children. If a particular curriculum is just making him or her miserable, it’s time to consider another option. Consider his interests and relate what you are doing to those interests if at all possible.  IMG_8885
  • Instilling the Ability to Teach Themselves- Probably the most important academic skill you can impart to your children is the ability to find for themselves the information they need. In the age of “googling” whatever we need, most people can find the snippets of information to get them through, but building a working knowledge requires research skills beyond a wiki entry. Take your children to the library and teach them to delight in the array of real books on any given topic rather than only learning what a blurb in a textbook had to say. Watch videos pertaining to your studies during your lunch. And most of all, TRAVEL. If your budget can at all handle it, even small day trips, take your children to see, touch, and experience the things they are learning. Allow your children the luxury of realizing that learning is not limited to words on a page, but is part of everything we do. Allow them time to pursue their own interests, for this is one of the best ways to encourage self-teaching, and they don’t even realize they are doing it. My daughter loves birds. IMG_8886 She has purchased many bird field guides with her own money, and has a device with electronic cards that replicate different bird calls. A nature journal filled with information about birds that she has seen, along with some items she has found, such as feathers, testifies to the motivation of a child pursuing a passion.  On a trip out west, she her joy over seeing birds that aren’t found here on the east coast sent us down back roads on a quest, and our travels became a means for seeing first-hand what she had only read about. She taught herself a great deal about ornithology by just having freedom to do so, and she never even thought of it as “school.”
  • Knowledge and Love of the Lord- Finally, and most importantly, our children need to know that they have a Lord and Savior who died for them. Without this knowledge, all other knowledge is meaningless. It is our first priority, and should be a joyful process, not something that is a stern and dull part of our day, dedicated to lots of memorization and tedium. Bible stories should be part of our little ones daily diet, read from books with beautiful pages by voices that convey  awe and wonder. When the children are older, Bible studies which expand on and reveal the spiritual truths of those now-familiar stories should be a part of every day. Our children should be able to observe their parents living these truths to the best of our human abilities, and they should be included in the prayer requests that we have and the answers when they come! Christian curricula, especially in the areas of science, history, and the arts instill a Christian worldview, which will help them develop discernment in a hostile world. Our relationship with Christ is the umbrella underneath which all of the other important character qualities fall- honesty, integrity, compassion, respect, love, charity, perseverance, work ethic, and selflessness just to name some of the bigger ones.

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These are the things that matter most. Whether quadratic equations remain a struggle or not, the journey is a success when we are following the signs along the trail that lead us to the destination with a view like this!

Letting Go

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You think you can’t, but you can. Learning to let go of our children is probably one of the hardest things we have to do in this life. That tiny little person that God placed with you, flesh of your flesh, to be nurtured and treasured for a time, is a person all his own with a life purpose created in eternity past.

It began in the delivery room, the letting go. As that tiny body slipped from being a physical part of you to an independent existence in a big scary world, you had no choice. God’s plan is not that our children would belong to us, but to Him. Even though He entrusts us- even holds us accountable- with their upbringing, He always intended that they would be flung out into the world like arrows to impact the world for Him.

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A thousand tiny acts prepare us for the day. First bites of baby food wean dependency on mother’s milk. Triumph of first steps carry tiny feet across the floor without our hand. First day of school leaves mom waiting anxiously for 2:30, unless of course you are a home school mom. And with homeschooling,  you are keenly aware of the daily victories as that little one starts to sound out letters until one day, a word reveals itself, and a little voice shouts out “cat” with a startled look of joy. You are right there as the fractions that brought tears in a math lesson turn into the “easy stuff” that gives way to algebra and trigonometry. And suddenly, without warning in the midst of the daily chaos of motherhood, you reach the day of caps and gowns and happy crying. Somewhere in the daily challenges of changing diapers, cleaning messes, cooking, rushing to boy scouts,  and stressing over which math program to use, a child grew up. And there is the reward.

Even though there may be tears of sadness that tiny voices no longer call out for a glass of water at bedtime and dimpled baby arms no longer reach up to be held, yet there is much in this new season to cause rejoicing. A lively debate at the dinner table reveals that my sons and daughter are thinkers with great insight to share on many varied topics. Their plans and hopes and dreams spill out in excited chatter while I cook dinner, filling me with happiness (and occasional anxiety as one son often describes his intentions to climb mountains and hike the Appalachian Trail!) I am as proud of their milestones today as I was when they flashed me that first toothless smile.

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God in His omniscience knows more about the love of a parent than any one of us can fathom,  and in His mercy,  He built the letting go into the every day so we could grow into it a little bit at a time. As I savor the last three years of homeschooling my youngest child of three, I look back over the years of field trips, finger paint, and read-alouds on the sofa every morning, and I know beyond all doubt that I have been witnessing daily His grace. He has been right there with me, preparing me, leading me, and showing me that despite the world’s mantra, IT IS NOT ALL ABOUT ME. And it never was.

New Year, New Kitchen!

This new year is off to a rip-roaring start! I am finally getting around to painting my kitchen, and does it ever feel great! The last time I painted, it was a few years after we moved here. We were getting new cabinets installed, and while the walls were bare, we painted a lovely raspberry shade on them. I am ready now for a nice neutral shade that will allow me to add color with window treatments and accessories as I please. I have always been a fan of painting my walls with color, but I am on a neutral kick right now because color is a commitment, and I want freedom! There are just too many beautiful color combinations to choose from, and I want to be able to switch with the seasons.

IMG_8626 IMG_8625 IMG_8624A Few Before Pictures- I had already taken down the curtains in the kitchen before it occurred to me to take a before pic, but they were the same as the ones pictured top left on my french doors in the adjoining dining room, which is also getting a matching paint job! 

When we moved into this house 18 years ago, I thought it was temporary. We moved from a new home with our 3 year old and 5 month old boys so that I could reduce my hours at work and stay home with them until they were school-age. I thought that I would be here for about 5 years, and then I would be able to work full time again as an RN, and then would be the time to have the things I wanted, or thought I wanted, in life.

Then several funny things happened. The first one was that the house was in need of a lot more work than we first realized. Our attempt to lessen our mortgage was tempered by all the money we had to spend on home improvement. We became regulars in Lowe’s and Home Depot as we shopped for everything from a water heater to new flooring. I spent many, many baby nap times scraping wall paper, painting, and even applying waterproofing sealant to the basement that we quickly learned was prone to flooding. I could write an entire book on the adventures we had as the proud new owners of a money pit. Many times I realized I could have kept the new home I left behind for the cost of all the things that had to be corrected in the fixer-upper. But as I chose colors and replaced appliances, and labored the hours away, the house became mine in a way that a ready-made house never could. Ahhh, life lessons.

The second thing that happened was that we received another tiny blessing in our baby daughter born a couple of years later, and that pushed the timeline farther back with another 5 years to wait until little ones were all school bound. My heart was so full (and so were my days!) that I wasn’t as focused on that as I had once been…

Finally, I felt the Lord tugging on my heart once again. Another major change was in store for this mom who thought that she wanted all the trappings of the world’s definition of success. I actually cried and felt like a pouty child who has been asked to do something she would just really rather not do right now. How could I have known in the midst of my fear and trepidation that I would count homeschooling among the greatest of the blessings that my Father has given us?

We are still here after all these years because this is where God put us. I have no doubt that He was leading us, and the matter was settled in His divine plan. We did pray about the decision during that time, and both felt assured that it was the right thing to do. That didn’t stop me from doubting my ability to properly hear Him while I stood in 2 inches of sewage in my basement one fine December morning shortly after we got here, but a wonderful mom who became my homeschool mentor when I reached that chapter gently reminded me to never doubt in the dark what God has told you in the light. Those words have carried me through a great many hours of dim light. I also have the following verses on my refrigerator printed on yellowing paper from our church’s newsletter shortly after we moved in:

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Because God is good and He cares for us, He has allowed us to make this home a lovely place to raise our family, and we have good neighbors in a sweet town. In His wisdom, He took what felt like a sacrifice that we had to make and turned it into a blessing.

I can look back at the young couple we once were when we arrived here in this “temporary” house, and I smile as I remember that man makes his plans but God orders his steps- that’s Proverbs 16:9. I don’t know what the future holds, but I know that He does. I’m glad He is leading me, because I love what He has done for us. This is home, not because of the structure that shelters us, but because of the family of five who grow and develop in love for Him and each other here.

The Trouble With Christmas

As we dash about feeling like there is a list of things that we have to do to keep from missing Christmas, that is precisely what we do. We miss Christmas.

This Christmas seems to have gone by in a flash, and I did not make the adorable red and white quilt that I saw online and intended to have on the back of my rocking chair this season. I wanted to make some special gifts, but instead I’ve purchased stuff because realistically, I did not have time. I didn’t host a cookie swap like I had wanted. And as I lay in bed awake on a recent night thinking of how much I didn’t do, I felt that peace that He gives whisper soft to me.

These are the trappings of our own expectations.

Christmas is none of these things. Christmas is not the frantic scurrying about to set the stage. It’s not about props and the creation of a scene. The stage has already been set for us long ago, and the Main Character has arrived. Everything is perfect just like it is.

As I placed my nativity set on the mantel several weeks ago, it was an act of worship. A hushed holiness surrounded me- not in the ceramic figures themselves, but in the reflection and focus on that one night in Bethlehem as I placed each piece. And so I close my eyes and let that memory soak deep into my heart, reminding me that He has already made the season perfect with His presence.

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Why 2014 Was Not the Year to Start a Blog and Why That Matters to You

IMG_8531This year has disappeared as a rushing gust of wind. Graduating my second child, homeschooling, doctor appointments, working at a “real job” (don’t get me started on how much I hate when people say that), projects around the house, leading several ladies’ Bible studies, and just trying to carve a few minutes to be me.

After a long hiatus from this fledgling blog, I’m ready to return. 2014 has been a season of regrouping in so many ways. Spiritually, I have been focusing on the aforementioned Bible studies. I want to encourage other women in their walk with Him. In fact, that could be stated as the main purpose of this blog. Life gets sticky sometimes, and I want to be the reminder that it’s gonna be all right.

As a homeschool mom, the adjustment to homeschooling one child after starting with three who were all clamoring for my attention at once and simultaneously needing help with finger paint, phonics, and fractions posed a speed bump. I never deal well with change (maybe that isn’t entirely true- I just have to start sooner than most!).

As an RN who works weekends, I struggle to find the time to write like I want to. I enjoy my job for the most part, but it is certainly a drain on my time with so much going on during the week!

So why does all of this matter one whit to you? Because I want to lead by example in saying that there are seasons in life when you cannot do it all. There. I confessed it publicly. We’ve all heard again and again that the supermom myth is just that. And yet, we continue to beat ourselves up when we can’t perpetuate it in our own lives. The key to recognizing our limitations lies not only in whether we are able to keep up with everything, but in whether we have joy and peace as we do it. We tend to think most about joy and peace in this the Christmas season. But Christ did not come so we could just have it for the month of December. He came to bring joy and peace to us ALL the time.

If you are doing more than He has for you in this season, take some time to reflect on all the things you are attempting, and ask Him to show you where the priorities are. We can be busy doing much, or we can be busy doing what matters most. We must continually give our best efforts to those areas of our lives that are the most important, and we have to be in prayer so that we understand what those areas are.

Chalk One Up for New Canisters!

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A new year always makes me want to just go crazy with a fresh start for everything! My kitchen canisters which almost date back to my wedding have been begging for an update. Inspiration struck one evening while waiting for dinner to cook, and the chalkboard canisters were conceived. I originally planned to paint them with chalkboard paint, but I was a bit nervous about how it would turn out. Once you have sprayed paint on something, you have pretty much committed.

I procrastinated while I pondered whether I really wanted to attempt painting them. I worried about crooked lines from uneven tape or leakage running down the sides. While searching for another small item to bump me to the magic $35 dollar zone where the Amazon fairy waives shipping fees, I found Con-Tact brand self adhesive chalkboard paper. Problem solved! No need to worry about messy lines, over-spray, or fumes. This awesome product even has a line grid on the back so you can cut it straight. So armed with a pair of scissors, my handy-dandy roll of chalkboard paper, a measuring tape, and a liquid chalk pen, I determined to up-cycle my old canisters.

Step One: I emptied the contents of the sugar container by emptying it into a mixing bowl. (The other three were actually already empty. I’m not entirely sure why, but I’ve never really used them, so these organizational tools were actually creating clutter on my counter top!) I washed all four canisters with hot water and dish detergent, then made sure they were thoroughly dry.

Step Two: I measured the canisters height and circumference to get the proper dimensions for cutting my Con-Tact paper. Then I added a couple of inches to the length so I would be sure to have a little overlap on the back of the canister.
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Step Three: This is where things got sticky. It turns out that it was easier in my brain than in reality. I mean, shouldn’t it just be a simple matter of peeling the backing off the paper and sticking it to the canister? Yes and no. First off all, I peeled the paper backing a little at a time, only revealing the gummy side as I was actually pressing it down. Things went well as I rolled my thumb over the air bubbles and removed them as they appeared. I was very careful to keep the paper straight, running even with the top lip of the canister. Somehow, though, working with a cylinder causes a spiral effect with the paper, making the two ends refuse to meet evenly as you finish wrapping.
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Step Four: After several attempts to get the paper to line up properly at the end, I gave up and cut the paper before it started to wander off course. Life got much easier when I did this, and I just neatly overlapped the remaining piece to cover the blank space on the back side. Finally, it was time for the fun part- writing on them! The liquid chalk pen works just like a paint pen. You have to hold the tip down on a scrap piece of paper to saturate it. Then you can get busy writing and drawing on your “new” canisters!

The time involvement was a little more than I thought it would be, because I tend to believe that I can conquer the world in a day. So I figured I could slap chalkboard paper on these babies in about twenty minutes and move on with my life. It actually took about an hour and a half, which is certainly a reasonable amount of time to outfit my counter with new canisters that are fun to look at and now actually serve a purpose. They even made my husband smile when he saw them!
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My favorite thing about these is that I can change these to suit my whims. All it takes is a damp cloth to erase the chalk, and I can change hot chocolate with a snowman to lemonade mix with sunshine, palm trees, and flip flops!