Friday, April 22, 2011

Craftiness: 30th Birthday Card

We recently celebrated my friend Miranda's 30th birthday. She is extremely creative, so I wanted the card we gave her to be crafty and fun like she is. Here's what I came up with based on ideas I found while perusing through books at Hobby Lobby. Her love for stars and the color green determined my color scheme. I'm including directions in case you decide you'd like to make one, too. :)

1. Cut a 5.25" square out of background paper.
2. Cut a 5.25"x4.25" rectangle out of paper you'd like to make up the pocket; then, using a stencil (or freehand, if you're brave!), cut a semi-circle out of the top.
3. Cut a 4.25"x4.25" square for the card insert.

4. Attach several 1.5" lengths of ribbon with a button. You're done with the card insert! Set it aside.
5. BEFORE attaching the pocket to the base of the card, use your sewing machine to zigzag stich the TOP of the pocket (where the semi-circle is). I used upholstery thread. *The card insert should NOT be behind the pocket piece while you stitch (as pictured), unless you want your friend to be unable to remove the card!

6. If any of the greetings for the front of the pocket require stitching, do so now. I put a few photo squares on the back of the greetings I stitched, just to hold them in place while I sewed.
7. After you've attached your greetings, use a dot adhesive runner or photo squares to adhere the edges of the pocket to its backing. This will hold the pocket in place while you sew.
8. Zigzag stitch around the sides and bottom of the card. Tie any loose ends of thread behind the card.

9. On the back of the card, add a little "made by" embelishment or stamp.

10. Slip the card insert inside the pocket.
Voila! You have a handmade card, ready to give to your friend.

Other Variations
Wedding Congratulations Card

Bright and Sunny Birthday Card

Monday, April 18, 2011

Swing Therapy

Have you ever had the blahs? I am, unfortunately, perhaps more familiar with them than I would care to admit.

This afternoon we took a trip to a park a few blocks away. It's a tiny little thing and hardly any kids are ever there. In fact, I once talked with another parent--the only other parent I've ever seen there--who said he and his girls call it their "Secret Park." Sometime after I told Michael that story, we started calling it that, too. It just seems so appropriate.

When we struck out on our walk, I had no anticipation of getting over my blahs. I set out simply because my muscles were crying for a good, exhausting stretch and I had missed my workout earlier in the day. While Michael pushed Laila in the stroller, I would run for a bit, circle back to them, and run a little more. When we got to the park, Michael took Laila to play while I went on a longer jog. As my lungs began to burn, I drank in deep swells of sweet spring air. I gulped it like water in the desert, and it filled me up completely. I took in the scenery as my heart absolutely pounded in my chest--that beautifully steady thump-thump, thump-thump. I remembered I love to be alive.

When I got back to the Secret Park, Mike and Laila were making their way to the swings. Now I must confess that the swings are as much my favorite now as they were when I was in the fourth grade. As Laila and I swung together, I found myself laughing and squealing even more than she was. Feeling the wind rush through my hair and looking up at oak trees so large and so old that God Himself must have planted them before his seventh day's rest, I remembered not only just how tiny I am on this Earth, but also how great is His love for me. I could not help but think of the verse

He died for us so that, whether asleep or awake, we may live together with him.
1 Thessalonians 5:10 (emphasis mine)
and also of Jesus' words in John 10:10
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
Jesus' desire for me to is have life, and have it to the full--to truly, truly live. The whole point of his death was life. So often I find myself simply making it through my current situation and moving on to the next thing rather than truly living and being. Going through life that way is not fulfilling! Unfortulately, I have no deep, spiritual thoughts on this or a "Five Steps" program to better living. I have instead an earnest desire to live differently myself. The only thing I know is that I cannot live--truly live life to its full--without Jesus at its center. He is the source. He alone can sustain me.

We swung until it was dark enough that I expected my mom to call me home any second, and we finished the day with bowls of mint chocolate chip ice cream.

What an unexpectedly wonderful ending to such an average day. I left home with the blahs and returned with sore muscles and a happy heart.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Just When I Think I Care Enough

I Discover Something Else to Care About.

One of my favorite things to do on a morning at home is to tune our little radio into KUAR 89.1, our local NPR station. I casually listen as I eat breakfast, do dishes, or "dance Cinderella" with Laila. Today was one of those days.

This morning on Fresh Air, investigative reporter Charles Fishman discussed the worldwide thirst for clean drinking water. Fishman told about his visiting a third-world country, where girls and small boys must walk miles--MILES--to fetch clean drinking water for their families each day. Their average load is two or three gallons, a weight of 16-24 pounds, which they generally carry on their heads. Now, this bit of information elicited quite a bit of sympathy on my behalf: It is sad that they must walk so far for what I am sometimes too lazy to walk to the kitchen. Then, however, Fishman lowered the boom when he pointed out that we use that much water--some families' daily supply--with one flush of our toilets. I immediately felt...greedy. And ignorant. And then overwhelmed. And then hopeless. And then helpless.

Sometimes, hearing all the bad news in the world and all its problems and then comparing them with the sphere of my influence and abilities is utterly overwhelming. I feel helpless to do anything and am sometimes consequently compelled to do nothing at all. After all, what can one person do?

This is, of course, wrong thinking, but that doesn't keep my mind from retracing the same old familiar ground whenever the trouble of the world pricks at my heart. It would be so much easier to steel myself and look the other way. Then I remember the words from my Guidebook for Living:
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, "Go in peace; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.
As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

-excerpted from James 2 (NIV)
We are very explicitly called to act on behalf of our brothers and sisters in need when it is within our power to do so. After all, God sent no ambassador to save me from my depraved state; he came Himself.

At the Same Time...
I think it is easy for us as Americans--or at least for me!--to throw money at a problem and call that a deed. Though I think it is definitely important for me to become financially involved in alleviating the troubles of the world, my actions must be an overflow of the condition of my heart.
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." This is the first and greatest command. And the second is like it: "Love your neighbor as yourself."

-Jesus, speaking in Matthew 22
This scripture helps me to balance out the truth found in James. I know that I cannot singlehandedly solve all the world's problems, but I think what I can do for the world is let its problems affect me, let them break my heart and mess up my cozy little life...and then ask God for help in knowing how I should act. Jesus not only asks me to do, but also to care; and inversely, not only to care, but also to do.

And when the weight of caring becomes too much, and my heart is heavy, I count my blessings--particularly the immaterial ones--and remember some of the most encouraging words in scripture that I'd like to leave you with today:
In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
John 16:33