Friday, November 29, 2013

"Jesus Loves..." Ornaments

Each year I try to either make an ornament for each member of my family 
or buy one as a way to remember the year.
The ornaments in this article were not an 'Ellie original.'
A dear friend of mine, Jacque, showed me the ornaments she made for her family
and I knew I wanted to make them for mine.
She told me that, through these ornaments, her tree is covered with the names of her children,
their spouses, and now her grandchildren! 
She shared how every Christmas the children go running into her home
 to find their names on her tree.
 I love that idea! 
I also love that at Christmas time with all the distraction from
 shopping, Santa's songs, and Rudolf movies, 
there is something for the children to remember.
Remember that Jesus, the only Son of God, came to earth
out of His great love for each one of us. 
He came because He loves us. 
That is what Christmas is all about-it is to remind us of God's great love.
Here they are:

Many of you who are crafty or know how to cross-stitch
can clearly see that this was not the art of one professional cross-stitcher, 
but more an ornament that was crafted in a labor of love. 

I bought enough frames for each member of my family.
 I picked up the aida at a craft store along with red and green embroidery thread.
And then I designed and drew on the aida in order to follow the pattern.

This is not a difficult project, but neither is it a completed one!
Don't tell my little one that their momma hasn't made hers yet! (Yikes!)
I guess I'll be making one more this season!
Blessings to you all!
Remember that God loves YOU!!!
John 3:16

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Home-Made Christmas Stockings

Seventeen years ago, when I was on the cusp of  being a married woman, I began thinking about our first Christmas together. I searched for matching Christmas stockings, (yes, I am a geek) but I couldn't find any that had the Nativity Scene-the true meaning of Christmas-on them. Everything seemed to be covered with Santa's, snowmen, and the like. I finally came across a counted crossed-stitched set. I had never created a cross-stitch project that was 'counted,' but I was determined to learn! Here they are!

 I worked on them all year and gave it to my new hubby as a Christmas gift.

 A few years later, when baby number one came along, I thought about how much I wanted him to have a stocking that had the true meaning of Christmas represented too, but couldn't imagine cross-stitching another stocking!
The hunt began. 
I found nothing.

So, I was left with the idea of making my baby his own stocking, but this time it would be made out of felt. And because I knew we would have more than one little babushka I began working on four stockings at once! I thought of the main characters that are a part of the birth of Jesus:
Joseph and Mary, the shepherds, the three kings, and the angels.

My first little one was a boy- he got the shepherd and sheep stocking.
The shepherds story is so wonderful. 
A whole host of angels appeared to them and sing the great news of  the birth of God!
After the angels left them, the shepherds went running down into the town shouting the Good News
through out the streets! (They were very first evangelists).
Then, can you imagine, the awe of meeting Jesus face-to-face.

My second child was a little girl- she received the angels!
The angels are very much a part of the birth of Jesus.
From the first-telling Mary she would give birth to the Savior of the world,
to an angel appearing to Joseph in a dream,
to the shepherds, and to Joseph again warning him to leave Bethlehem and flee to Egypt.
God speaks to us in many different ways-and clearly He uses angels for His greatest news!

My next child received the Nativity Scene.
What a Holy night.
No movie has ever depicted for me what that night must have really been like.
You cannot capture the Holiness of God on film.
Jesus, the Son of the Living God, left heaven and came to earth-as a baby.
No words can grasp it either, nor my simple felt design,
but it is here to remind all of us what a holy night Christmas really is.

the fourth stocking I made was of the Three Kings or wise-men.
How incredible that three, or more men, followed a star and found the KING!
Three very wise, very learned men found themselves in a stable. They see a poor couple and a baby in a manger.
Their natural minds must have thought that they miscalculated something,
but the holiness of the room in which they entered brought them to their knees
and presented a baby with exquisite gifts-gifts for a king.

  I had covered all the characters from the Bible story covering Jesus' birth in my four stockings,
 but now baby number five was due to arrive! I had to think. 
Well, my little guy loved animals, so I created the manger scene again,
but this time with the animals surrounding baby Jesus.

Now, my sixth child's stocking really challenged me.
 I had really, really, covered all the characters from the story.
But then I remembered how the story really didn't end at the stable.
I made Mary, Joseph and Jesus traveling to Egypt!
God had protected them from King Herod and they were safe.
I love this stocking so much-it continues to show God's provision for those He loves.

Here they all are! All eight, home-made by Moi!
The completed story from the first stocking to the very last. 

After I made all the stockings,
I used the stencils I created to make the stockings
to make a tree skirt to match.

I love that each child has part of the story of Jesus' birth.
That they are visually reminded of what Christmas is really all about.

The story of Jesus' birth so totally fills me with awe!
Be encouraged that Jesus, the Son of God, came to earth
died for our sins,
rose again,
and lives and reigns in heaven today! 
If you do not know Him, but would like to know more about Jesus
please feel free to write to me.
Many blessings to you all and Merry Christmas!!! 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Balancing the 'Boxes'

I know many people use the phrase, "juggling too many balls in the air," which is another way of saying how they keep everything in their life in order, but for me it's, "balancing boxes." It's the same idea, I suppose, but I cannot juggle and just the visual thought of me juggling the important things in my life causes me anxiety. It seems more doable, to me, to balance one box on top of another rather than throwing all my responsibilities into the air and hope that I form some sort of rhythm to keep them all in the air. Either way, I simply want to say that I realized that I have many boxes and the mere task of balancing them each day and keeping them balanced is quite the undertaking.

Okay, so what 'life boxes' am I holding in my arms? The 'life box' of quiet time with the Lord, marriage box, parenting box, home-schooling box, cleaning the house box, menu planning- food shopping -cooking box, extended-family box, friend's box, ministry box, diet and exercise box, blog box.

(This is me, with my black, crazy, hair, balancing some of the boxes in my life-just to give you a fun visual).

So, with all the 'life boxes' that I am carrying around each day- trying to walk straight, trying to keep them in order, one on top of the other, never allowing them to slip or fall- I've recently realized something. As much as I want all that the Lord has for me, as much as I want to do and obey anything and everything the Lord calls me to, I have found  that I am too afraid of Him giving me one more 'box.' I'm afraid of Him asking me to put all my life 'boxes' down and shift their order. I'm afraid He'll want to take a 'life box' away. I find that if I just keep going straight nothing gets disturbed and there are no surprises, no confusion. I've realized that I've been controlling my 'life boxes' and not allowing the Lord to control them. I've been too afraid. So, I guess you can say, I've not trusted Him.

It all came to a head back in April. I felt the Lord tugging my heart to take on a new 'life box' labeled 'exercise and dieting.' I felt like I wanted to sit and cry. I thought, "HOW? How can I put one more thing into a very packed day? Who will watch the kids? When am I going to find more time to make different meals for myself alongside the preparation of making three meals a day for my family?" My heart raced. My head ached. I wanted to obey, but was anxious about it. Then one day the Lord showed me how. I was able to put it into my 6am slot, workout, make a protein drink, take my vitamins, shower and then start the rest of my day. I have since lost over fifteen pounds!

My 'homeschooling box' has always been one that I have tightly gripped. Home-schooling started out okay-ten years ago. I chose a curriculum for my first son, studied it, learned it from cover to cover, and loved it, but in time I found that no one else was using it and I felt very isolated. Many people didn't like the curriculum I was using and told me so. They urged me to change the curriculum I was using. I believed in what I was doing, but found that I wouldn't really consider changing because I was too afraid. I was afraid of letting go. Afraid of loosing all the work I put into the curriculum and  having to just trash it all was too much to consider. Afraid to face that maybe I made a mistake- and that was really hard. Afraid of not having the time to learn a whole new curriculum and then finding out that I didn't even like it! I held on and would not let go. I wanted everything to stay the same. I wanted to feel safe. I reasoned with myself that my children liked it, my husband learned from it when he was a child, and I agreed with it's teaching methods, but the fact that I could not let it go, face the fear of God calling me to change has always bothered me. It made me feel like I have been a failure as a home-school mom.

Most of the people I knew were always changing their curriculum, trying something new, but not me. No, everyone knew that Ellen was doing the same old thing and no one ever wanted to hear how it was going for me and my kids. Well, I'm glad to say that after years of living insecurely, I have finally surrendered. I put the 'home-school box' down and said, "Lord, what home school curriculum do you want me to pick up?" As I studied other curriculum's, opened my heart to change, I saw myself falling more in love with what I've always done! The Lord had called me to what I picked so many years ago, but because I was too afraid to ask Him, I lived in fear instead of the confidence that I was in His plan.

I will tell you too that I've also struggled with the Lord changing the 'size' of one of my 'life boxes.' You see I have a 'friend's box'- it is a small box-it's always been small. Because of fear, I've only allowed a few women into my life at a time. The fear of having friends came from a fear of rejection. And in my thinking, being rejected by one friend was a lot easier to handle than ten friends worth of rejection. But God is changing that! My 'friend's box,' for the first time in my life, is getting bigger and bigger. All kinds of women are entering my life and I love them all. I want them to come over and I want to go to their house too.

I'm so happy that my 'friends box' is getting bigger. The fear of having more friends being too heavy to carry hasn't happened. The fear of being rejected by many hasn't happened either. The fear of people not liking me or my home, seeing the 'mess' or how I haven't been able to garden or grow grass hasn't stopped people from wanting to be a part of my life.

The bottom line is- I've surrendered. I used to control all the boxes-their size, shape, amount, but as I grow in Jesus, as I learn the true character of His love and redemption, grace and mercy, I feel safe. My trust grows and as I can hear His voice leading me, the fear lessens. Now, I can switch out 'life boxes' gain boxes, loose boxes. It's all okay because the One telling me what to let go or add is with me, wiser than me, loves me, and knows what I can handle, and He has a a good plan for me-and it's not one that leads to destruction.

What is this life if we don't: hear the voice of the Holy Spirit, obey God, trust Him, humble ourselves to allow God or others speak into our lives? God will not stand at the top of the path, point, and say, "Go down that road a ways and I'll catch up with you in about a year." No. Our God leads us, AND goes with us. We have to know Him to trust Him. He is trustworthy.

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5-6

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

"El, We're Not in Brooklyn."

No, I never lived in Brooklyn. Queens was my home and I don't live there now, but nevertheless my hubby did state the words, "El, we're not in Brooklyn" just the other day.

It all started when he wanted to put a clothes-line up in the backyard for me. He pointed out different areas of the yard where he thought he could create an outdoor dryer for our clothes. But to each one of his ideas I responded that it was just too far from the house. Honestly, I couldn't see carrying a basket full of wet clothes down the stairs (my laundry room is on the second floor), through the house, out the back door and across the yard. He kept making suggestions that moved the clothes-line closer to the house, but nothing was good enough for me, until I thought of something.

My idea was having a clothesline out my bedroom window. I thought it was truly brilliant. My wet laundry is upstairs. My bedroom is up stairs. So why not have the clothes-line 'upstairs?' That's when my husband said, "El, we're not in Brooklyn." But with a little convincing my husband installed my clothes line- upstairs.

I giggle every time I look out the window and see my clothes dangling from a rope two stories high! I cannot imagine what my neighbors think! They know I am from New York, so they probably think this is normal for me and they would be right or they simply think I'm crazy, but clearly I'm not too worried.

Here it is!
My Brooklyn clothes-line in Virginia! 
I really love it. It's easy and manageable.

I think what I love the most about it is how my husband didn't really want to hang our clothes out for the whole neighborhood to see, but he loves me so much that he gave up what he wanted, for me. I wasn't obstinate or mean to him, I just know myself and know that my day is already filled with many things to do. I really couldn't see using a clothes-line that was, as I put it, too far from the house. I love how my husband can hear me and meet me where I am at. Who knows, maybe one day I'll have a Virginia clothes line in Virginia! 

Can you hear me giggling?