Making Curtains and… Global Issues?

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I grab the orange and white checkerboard gingham from the Fabricland bag and I lay it out in front of me.

It’s beautiful.

Just what the medical clinic in Dominican asked for.

I had searched the store high and low for exactly what they said they wanted.

There must be a reason why it had to be orange and white – this must match perfectly with the decor they already have.

It had to be a fabric that could wash easily as well, and the cotton/polyester gingham met that requirement perfectly.

And I had to make sure there was enough fabric for 4 curtains altogether.

I had to double up the width they’d given me to allow for ruffle and gathering of the curtain, and I had to make sure I had the height they requested as well.

The lady at Fabricland helped me measure out how much fabric to buy, and she converted inches to metres for me. She can do this no problem, this is her specialty, and she’s good at what she does. Friendly too.  She gave me a free bag and a ticket to fill out for a draw, and off I went – equipped and encouraged for the task ahead.

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I get home and lay the fabric out on the floor.

I look at it for a few moments – picturing what it will become.

Then I gather the tools necessary for the task at hand:

  • Scissors (Wiltshire Stay-Sharp scissors for accuracy and ease of cutting)
  • A hand-drawn template (have you noticed I always need to write things down?)
  • Pink measuring tape (I still use the one my mum gave me 12 years ago)
  • Sewing machine (I blow off the dust – it’s been a while – too long)
  • White Gutterman thread (the good stuff – left over from my bridal veil-making days)
  • My dining table

I measure once, and then again – trying to take into account hems and pockets for curtain rods, etc.

I start to cut the beautiful fabric. I take such care. I want to get this right.  I only bought enough fabric to make one big mistake or a couple of small ones. I’ll find out later which I ended up making… but it’s good to know I’m expecting to make mistakes… means the perfectionist in me is getting quieter (at least sometimes).

I gather my first piece and walk over to the dining table. I sit down in front of the machine and it feels like home. There are just some things I know I was meant to do.

Who would have known, Karen, sister of mine, when you asked me if I could make bridal veils for your store? Who would have known that with one question you could awaken a dormant skill in me?  And an unexpected skill at that, since I was kicked off the sewing machines in Grade 7 Home Economics class! You see, I was breaking too many needles, so they had me hand-stitch a bunny pillow instead. Now years later, your one question has led to hundreds of veils (and each one prayed over), and curtains for my house, and blankets for our kiddies, and this latest project… curtains for a medical clinic in Dominican… ha, funny how things work out, isn’t it?

But as I start to sew, I know it’s been a while.

Too long.

I can’t even get one stitch done properly.

What is going on?

The threading isn’t right, didn’t feel right as I was guiding the white Gutterman through the machine…

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I have to cut the thread and start again… and again… and again.

I actually start to pray,

God help me remember how to sew! Help me remember how to thread this machine properly so I can get this job done!

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And all at once it comes back to me, and I start to make progress with the colourful fabric in front of me.

Seriously, it’s like sunshine on my lap.

Makes me feel warm and refreshed.

Tiny hems on the sides of the curtains, small hem for the bottom, 2″ pocket at the top for the rod to slip through.

Oops.

I discover that my measurements for the first two curtains were off – I didn’t calculate enough fabric for the hems and pockets – a small mistake that will lead to using up that extra fabric.  But at least I can give them these large pieces to use as they wish for another project.

So I start from scratch – again.

It’s amazing how some skills can drift away so easily if they’re not practiced now and then.

I measure at least three times, and cut more curtain pieces out of the beautiful fabric, and sit down once again at my Phaff.

This time the sewing comes much easier, and I am starting to make some headway – finally – after more than an hour of work!

Then my bobbin empties.

It’s OK – a minor glitch. Only take a minute to get that filled up again.

I take the bobbin out and… now how do I thread THAT?

Oh my, another mind-stumper.

I pray first this time, then pull the white Gutterman thread through the top of the bobbin, set it on the special spinner, adjust the side knob of the sewing machine, and… nothing.

Oh right – readjust the bobbin on the spinner so it catches on the thing that makes it spin (not sure of mumbo-jumbo for that one), and then we’re in business.

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Putting the bobbin back into the machine  is not a problem for me since I had to learn this the hard way… many times over… when I first started sewing.

Once you learn something the hard way, it’s amazing how it can stick, isn’t it?

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Bobbin back in, fabric all measured correctly and cut, curtains are starting to take shape. I’ll have to refill the bobbin one more time before I’m finished, but it’s smooth sailing the second time around. Rethreading the needle isn’t hard anymore either. It is all coming back to me. Like riding a bike.

One thing, though – I DID end up breaking a needle!! And all of a sudden I was back in Grade 7 and feeling like I should quit because I was no good at this sewing thing. But you know what? Then I remembered all the amazing things I HAVE sewn over the years, and I knew that I could get this job done. So I grabbed another needle (because I even know what size of needles are for what sewing projects, thank you very much, and I just happened to have a few extra needles on hand), and I lined it up in the machine, and I was rolling one more time. Alright!

As I sew I think about all these things…

  • I wanted to buy a different fabric that I thought might look nicer than the orange/white checkerboard, or that was cheaper, or that might ruffle a little nicer as curtains… but in the end, I found just what they had asked for.  They told me what they wanted, and I bought it.  Turns out it was 40% off and I even had enough material to make a mistake or two and still get the job done.  Sometimes we may think we know better than others what it is they really need. Sometimes we just need to listen and fulfill their requests as they ask. Sometimes doing any more or less can hinder.
  • There are SO MANY people in the world who are better seamstresses than me and maybe I should have asked one of them to make the curtains instead. It’s not all up to me, but I can get the job done if needed. If we all work together, the load would be lighter. If we all use our gifts and passions in unity, we could make beautiful things together.
  • Sometimes our gifts and passions aren’t obvious until we step out of our comfort zones and try something new – something that we may just be amazing at, and something that can fill a niche or a need in the world.
  • Helping others is not always easy, and I can get out of practice. Just like sewing, and threading needles and bobbins on sewing machines. Reaching out can really feel like a stretch to start with – just like sewing wedding veils was a stretch for someone whose only experience with a sewing machine had been to get kicked off of one in Grade 7 Home Economics.
  • Old fears and discouragements may pop up to hinder any progress we may be making, and when that happens it really helps to remember truth and speak words of life and hope into our lives (or call someone who can do this for us when it seems too hard to do it ourselves).
  • Sometimes what we have to give or the ways we reach out to others can seem so small and insignificant, but it all means something wonderful in the kingdom of God.
  • Getting on a plane to visit a neighbour across the globe is no more important that walking across the street to visit a neighbour.  It just looks alot different. And God puts in some hearts to get on planes and in other hearts to never leave their home town. We are all so gloriously unique.

I have no idea what kind of difference these orange and white checkerboard gingham curtains will make in the grand scheme of global issues. Or any of the other jobs I’ll be doing in Dominican soon.  I don’t know how God will use my seemingly meager efforts to help in feeding the poor, clothing the naked, treating the sick, caring for the oppressed, or telling others about Jesus.

But I have to trust – that it all means SOMETHING. That I’m on the right track at least. That I’m doing what He’s asked me to do, for today. And tomorrow when I wake up and reaching out looks alot different than it did today, because every day can look so different from the last, I have to trust that He’ll help me to say yes to that as well.

Getting Ready to Go M.A.D.

I started packing last night.

Soon my husband and I will travel with 10 other wonderful people to the Sosua region of Dominican Republic.

We’ll work with a group called Go M.A.D. (Make a Difference) – fixing up a church in the village of Munoz and working on a children’s centre/medical clinic near Cabarete.

We’ll attend two churches (one that speaks English and one that speaks Spanish) on the Sunday that we’re there, and we’ll spend a few hours having fun at a place called Lake Dudu.

We’ll also spend a morning with Mustard Seed  because we just can’t get them out of our hearts since we visited last June (I still remember sitting in that room, feeding kids who couldn’t feed themselves, kicking a ball around with that boy full of laughter, hearing that girl say, in the most fun-loving way, “Idios” after my husband and a friend starting singing animatedly to the kids to make them smile). They’ve doubled their capacity since we were there last, and something about the place just encourages us like crazy, and we’re excited to take them some supplies and play with the kids for a morning.

So last night I gathered my travel-sized toiletries and started thinking about which book(s) I’d like to take on the trip.

I also did something that I knew I would have to do eventually – tried on my shorts that are inevitably too tight after months of cold winter and little activity on my part.

I made a small pile of old t-shirts to bring for the hot days of work ahead, and piled a few other shirts for the days of orientation, church, and play.

Two swimsuits are in there – because nothing dries quickly in Dominican. These are for the quick swim we’ll get in before dinner and nightly debrief with the team.

There’s also a bandana, a ball cap, old sports sandals and a sundress. And a pair of flip flops that will double as church shoes.

My Bible and a letter-sized notepad are coming as well. I hope there will be lots of words to share from the trip.

Actually, I KNOW there will be lots of words, because I have to start processing all that is growing in my heart – it’s building up too high in me, bubbling over and spilling out everywhere. These three trips to Dominican in the past three years, the university courses on global issues, reading the whole Bible last year – all these fit together in amazing ways.

I will be trying to make sense of it in the coming months.

I’d love to share the journey with you.

As always.

Sharing a Post From My Bro…

Thought I’d share this very real and honest post from my brother – about choosing God in the wilderness…

 

Feelings vs. Choice

“If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ‘tis now.”

-  Hymn by William R. Featherstone

 

The line struck me the other night, popping up unexpectedly in my head, because love is still a stark mystery to me, and because I know my love for Jesus is not what it used to be. It’s taken me back to an old debate: is love a feeling, or a choice?

 

Is it right that my love for Christ would fluctuate, never leaving entirely but existing in highs and lows in response to circumstances? It doesn’t sound right, does it? A verse came to mind: “He who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Luke 7:47) And I concluded that my lack of love could be from Elder Brother Syndrome (Luke 15:23-32). My gratitude for Christ’s forgiveness could be directly linked to how much I feel I’ve been forgiven, and although I’m not perfect, I have managed in my life to avoid a lot of the more obvious, more damaging sins.

The great equalizer to this line of thinking is to remember that whoever breaks one commandment is guilty of breaking them all (James 2:10), meaning that although we may have all sinned to varying degrees, we are all equally screwed. Being a Christian my whole life, I don’t know the kind of life that Jesus saved me from, saved me from having to go through, and damnation is something I can only understand in abstract ideas. I have nothing practical to look at and say, “This is how grateful I should be.”

On the contrary, for over a year now I’ve been in one of the darkest periods of my life. (I’m a technical person, and don’t like to over-dramatize things by saying, “This is the worst thing ever,” unless I mean it. Growing up, there were maybe two periods of my life darker than this.) And I’m not feeling the love.

Compounding this is the feeling that God is being inattentive and uncooperative. Letting things slip. Refusing easy prayers where I’m just asking for help carrying out His will, and receiving no such help. To put it in the closest human terms that I can conceptually relate to, I feel like I’m in a marriage with an emotionally distant spouse who refuses to work on the relationship. I’m trying and trying, but they won’t have any of it. This is not like the God that I’ve come to know. This is not the Jesus that I “married”. Theologically speaking, God is unchanging, but my present experiences disagree. What do I do with that?

There’s a number of easy answers. At least, they sound easy at first.

1: Suck it up, Wuss.

I can carry on as if everything’s fine, accept my lot in life, and declare that even the crap I’m going through is “good” and never complain again. That would turn me into a machine (I mean, more of a machine than I am now). It would be dishonest, and I would lose the ability to talk about anything authentically. It would be out of pious servitude, and yet I don’t think God would want that.

2: Conclude God was never real in the first place and carry on as if He doesn’t exist. This would also be dishonest (for me). I’ve seen too much. More importantly, I have felt His love. The fact that I don’t feel it now does not disqualify everything that’s happened before now.

3: Lash out at God because of what I’m going through. He obviously isn’t intending to take care of my needs, so through sin I can take care of my own needs and spit in God’s face at the same time.

That last one is the most appealing, and I have gone there from time to time, but I have not settled into that lifestyle.

Why not?

Well…because I still care about Him.

Sin hurts Him. Through some mysterious process I don’t fully understand, every sin I commit today has been laid on Christ two-thousand years ago, adding to His suffering. It hurts Him. And I don’t want to hurt my friend.

Does that seem childish? Maybe it is. Maybe it’s just because loyalty is such a big part of who I am. Maybe I’ve just been through too much suffering myself and just don’t like the idea of inflicting any amount of it on anyone, even someone I feel has deeply hurt me or even betrayed me. Is that how some married people feel after a while? Hurt and betrayed, yet in spite of that they still care?

 

“Love isn’t a decision, it’s a feeling.

If we could decide who we loved, it would be much simpler,

but much less magical.”

-  Mr. Twig

Who’s Mr. Twig? If you know then you simultaneously get a high-five along with my sympathy. If you don’t know, don’t worry, it just means you have better sense.

The Twig makes a good point here, but I don’t think it’s the whole story. Admiration, captivation, that kind of thing are all feelings. You can’t force yourself to feel those things. You can’t decide to feel those things. And if those feelings were never there then relationship wouldn’t work – just partnership.

But feelings fluctuate. Spring fades. Feelings alone won’t make a relationship last. So what do you do when feelings of love are no longer enough?

 

In the midst of my own struggles I’ve come to realize a new kind of faith is required. A new kind of love.

Fidelity is not a feeling, nor does it fluctuate because of circumstance. It is a decision. An act of love. Unconditional. Do I feel a love for God with all my heart? Honestly, not nearly as strong as I have in the past. Am I choosing with all my heart to act out of love for Him? Yes. Currently, that’s the best that I can offer.

I don’t presently feel like I can trust Him either, but in my daily life I’m still making decisions based on an act of trust. I’m choosing to trust, in spite of my feelings. I’m choosing to love when I don’t feel loved. I’m choosing faithfulness, though my heart tends to wander.

 

Some think the message that “God loves you” is irrelevant, because God loves everyone. It’s His job. If love was either a feeling or a decision, then yes, it would be less reassuring, but it isn’t just one or the other. It’s both. The atonement of Christ was an act, not a feeling. It was an act performed because God had promised salvation long beforehand, and God chooses faithfulness. That does not automatically mean that He loves you, the fact that He loves you is independent, based on the feelings of His own heart, and His feelings of love for each of His creations are unique and personal.

If God’s love for me was based solely on how He felt at the time, then I would worry about Him revoking my salvation whenever I pissed Him off. And if it was purely a decision because it’s His job, then it wouldn’t feel real to me, and I would worry that there isn’t anything about me to love. But God’s love for His people is both a feeling and a decision.

God’s decision to love us (to act with love) did not come on its own but was led on by His feelings of love for us. And my choice to remain with Him did not arrive on its own, but was made out of feelings of love for Him. If I had not seen God act in my life in the past, I would not have chosen fidelity. My choices would be based purely on the feelings of the moment. And the moment is quite dark. And the moment is often overwhelming. But the things I have experienced in the past assure me in the moment that there is also a future.

 

“Help me not forget in darkness

The things that I believed in light.”

-  Starfield

 

Riding the Waves

Feels like it’s been a while.

Feels like I have so much to share and no idea where to start.

What a week, what a month, what a year!

I’ve been waiting for a time of quiet so I can think and write it all down.

But even when there is no audible noise, there is soul-noise.

Yesterday it seems I may have found a place, a time of rest.

Because this morning it is a little quieter in my head, my heart.

Can I share?

This year has been one major event/change/transition after another.

Don’t we all have years like that?

Sometimes the big things are not good things.

This year they have been good things – thank God.

Because of course there will be times that are the opposite.

But not right now.

This year there was Meeting Oliver, Graduation, Turning 40, and Publishing My First Book.

But I don’t think I’ve mentioned much about church planting or the Northern Ontario focus or the Dominican focus.

Not to mention I am watching my boys grow up more and more every day. It’s a whole new phase with one of them in youth group and the other finishing up primary education soon enough.

And my husband will soon join me in entering another decade of life – he will also turn 40 next month. We really are growing old together.

Then there is IF – something new and beautiful and filling me up daily.

I find myself leaning into this song more and more every day…

I remember finding this saying at my mum’s house a few years back – I keep it in my wallet..

I can trust the waves, for I know the One who made the ocean.

Ya, exactly.

Lots of waves, not big horrible waves of destruction…

But waves that knock me over, flip me upside down, spin me around and around, and make me search for which way is up.

My husband tried out surfing in Mexico when I was five months pregnant with our first son.

We were much crazier then, in different ways, and didn’t mind hopping on a plane with 5 days notice and travelling across the world to catch a few days of adventure – with a baby coming we knew life would be spinning us around in many ways.

I remember sitting on a beach near Los Cabos, with a woman I barely knew, trying to spot Josh and this woman’s boyfriend on the horizon.

They had this crazy idea to try surfing.

Josh with his long wild hair and his fearlessness.

Me with big baby belly, red kerchief on my head, sprawled on the blanket on white sand.

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They told us at the surf shop where we rented the boards that it was dangerous to go out on the waves that day.

Some of the walls of water were 12 feet high they said.

But still Josh went out, having never surfed before.

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Back then I revelled in his craziness instead of trying to tame it (oh my, why do I even try to tame this in him?).

I remember scanning the horizon, not seeing the soon-to-be-father that I’d been married to for not even two years.

I stood up and searched some more.

Trusted.

I knew he was there somewhere, that God had him, that he would saunter back up the beach to me with that smirk on his face.

And he did, but not for a while, and not without a fascinating tale of adventure to tell.

He’d been knocked off his board, tossed into the waves, spun around and upside down, couldn’t tell which way was up.

Good thing he had tied off the board to his ankle.

Good thing he had something to pull him rightside up, to show him the way to swim.

Ya, good thing!

And I looked at him and knew I loved the craziness in him.

Always have.

Josh Mexico

And here we are, almost 15 years later, and I still love that in him.

But I’ve started riding the waves with him more and more.

I’m not sitting on the beach anymore.

Not wrapped up in a cozy blanket, watching life happen – now out on the waves alongside him.

And it’s spinning me around and upside down, and some days the waves seem way too big to be trying to navigate.

So instead I let them wash over me, and I pull on the rope that shows me the way up, and I come up for air, and get ready for the next wave.

Knowing that the seas do calm, the waves do still, and it will get easier to catch my breath – eventually.

Really, though, I wouldn’t want to miss the ride – waves and all.

What crazy changes this year is bringing so far…

Lent 2014 – Day Twenty-Seven – A Call to Live Compassionately


A Call to Live

What strikes you about Matthew 25:31-45? How does this passage challenge your view of what Christianity is all about?

The story of the sheep and the goats… reminds me of a song by Keith Green (my husband used to have Keith Green on repeat a few years back – we have his whole collection of CDs)… The Sheep and the Goats by Keith Green.

The song really got to me… Jesus’ story really gets to me… there has been this continuous 180 in my life.  It has always been there, but I go through these seasons of forgetfulness, of getting caught up in religion, because “good works” can be about religion as well.

The 180 comes as I view my life with a filter of love. Love is the reason for my faith. Love is the reason for “good works”. Not shoulds or should-nots. I lived too long in that, and I still get caught up in that – my perfectionism doesn’t help either.

So when I reach out, why do I do it? God will use whatever good I can muster – whether my focus is on Him or not. Whether love is the reason or not.

But it’s me that gets the blessing too when love leads the way.

Click here to access the WV devotional - you’ll find the focus and the questions for this week on pages 20-23.

Lent 2014 – Day Twenty – A Call to Live Generously


A Call to Live

What can you learn from the story of the widow’s offering?

Reminds me of this truly precious story about my oldest son… click here to read it.

Jesus’ story says that “rich people threw in large amounts… they all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on.”  Even though North American culture would tell me otherwise, I know without a doubt that I am one of the rich in today’s world.

Check out these links to find out where you rate in terms of wealth:

http://www.globalrichlist.com/  OR http://www.givingwhatwecan.org/why-give/how-rich-am-i

I tried a few different sites, and each one put me somewhere in the top 0-10% of the world’s wealthiest people.

WOW – really?

Because the culture I live in would have me believe that I really don’t have much, and that I need lots more.

When I give, am I anything like the widow? In what areas of my life does poverty exist?  Because it’s not monetary, that’s for sure. I have more than enough food, clothing, health care, education, housing, etc. than I need.

How do I give out of the poverty, the places where I only have enough to survive? Truth is, I don’t think poverty exists in my life. I am blessed. So how do I give like her, the woman who gave it all, who “put in everything – all she had to live on”?

A question I’ll be pondering for a lifetime…

Click here to access the WV devotional - you’ll find the focus and the questions for this week on pages 17-19.

Lent 2014 – Day Seventeen – A Call to Live Humbly


A Call to Live

Do you ever mistake humility for self-rejection instead of self-acceptance without self-concern?  Why or why not?  

Yes, in the past I would disregard compliments or encouraging words,thinking that I was supposed to make myself into nothing in order to be humble. I have come to realize (though I’m still not the greatest with accepting compliments) that often God is trying to bless me with compliments or encouraging words – like those are His words coming at me through others. So I try to take them, say thank you, internalize them and praise God for them.

Click here to access the WV devotional - you’ll find the focus and the questions for this week on pages 13-16.