Thursday, March 8, 2018

Winter’s almost over

It’s chilly, and snow lingers on the ground. But winter’s almost over.

From a TV show I haven’t watched, a line from an early episode became a meme on social media: WINTER IS COMING. And of course, it’s true: winter IS coming. Even as the current winter fades, we can be sure that another will come around before we know it.

I get the message: brace yourselves, stock up on necessities, times will be hard.

But this is hardly news. Haven’t we always known this? Hasn’t the human race always known this?

What people really need is a message of hope: winter’s almost over. The winds are less bitter, the nighttime temperatures less frigid. There’s no longer a need to wrap myself in wool right up to my cheekbones (and almost down to them too) before daring the outdoors.

It’s not quite spring, exactly. Nothing much is sprouting, and the only birds in the trees are the ones that stayed with us the whole season. But old snow has melted, and green peeps through. Sunbeams stand up straighter.

There is good news. Winter is almost over.

As in nature, so in the spirit. In the depths of humanity’s winter, good news was proclaimed: this present evil age is almost over.

The changes started small. Hearts of stone were melted. A few, then a few thousand… then these people spread the good news all over the known world.

Many hearts are still cold to this day. But imperceptibly, a warmth spreads, like roots underground.

"The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come." (Mark 4:26-29, ESV)

There is still much darkness and coldness. But when this winter is over, there will never be another.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Bullet Journal quick guide

A quick update--Kim at Tiny Ray of Sunshine has created a one-page Bullet Journal reference guide. I've just printed it out for my own reference.

Also, someone has translated it into German for her. Other languages are in the works, and she said she will update her post to add them as they come along.

[image from Tiny Ray of Sunshine blog]

Thursday, March 31, 2016

A tiny link roundup

I've been noticing so many interesting things lately. Here are a few that I want to share.

I've taken up bullet journaling. I first heard about it from Emily P. Freeman, but naturally my tipping point didn't come until after I purchased a preprinted 2016 planner... but when Target put Moleskine dot-gridded journals on clearance, I made the jump. The best article about bullet journaling, in my opinion, is the one from the Lazy Genius Collective called How to Bullet Journal: The Absolute Ultimate Guide. It really is.

Speaking of Emily P. Freeman, the other day she published a blog post called A Prayer for a Hopeful Vision. The very first line grabbed me by the throat: "We’ve developed a bad habit of praying for clarity." You can read the rest for yourself, if you so choose, but I think she's onto something. And it seems to be out there in the zeitgeist, too. For all I know, Emily may be reading The Dusty Ones: Why Wandering Deepens Your Faith by A.J. Swoboda, but I just ran across a review of it today. And here's a second review. Looks interesting. I've added it to the "Book Recommendations" page in my bullet journal.

Finally, Ann Voskamp shared this video on her blog, A Holy Experience. It's impactful.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Home alone

It's Friday morning. I took the day off work because I planned to go to a knitting retreat in a town 2 hours' drive away, a little 2-day gathering to knit and eat and chat and attend a couple informal workshops.

Instead I'm writing this blog post. I took the day off anyway, but I'm not going anywhere. My husband broke his wrist a week ago and it's in a cast from the elbow down.

Now I'm sure a healthy person could manage by themselves for 30 hours with one arm in a cast--even the dominant arm. But my husband is chronically ill. Adding another health crisis has him reeling. He needs help opening his medication bottles... he needs help covering himself up in the bed, sometimes.

So this is the life of the spouse of someone who's chronically ill. Holding plans lightly in case you have to cancel them at the last minute. Working around his needs.

I'm disappointed, of course. I thought about going to work, for about three seconds... but I already asked for the vacation day, and getting a day off is somewhat of a consolation. OK, I'll admit it: going to work instead of going to the knitting retreat would be rubbing salt in the wound.

Two months ago, I was asked to consider going on a six-day mission trip to teach knitting. My church has been partnering with a church in the Dominican Republic, and started a sewing ministry a year or so ago to teach poor women a marketable skill. These women now want to learn to crochet and knit as well.

My first instinct was to say, "I can't leave my husband alone for that long." And they laughed, thinking I was making a helpless hubby joke. Turns out my husband's health status isn't common knowledge at my church. But even after being informed, they were saying, "Have faith! What if someone brought him meals?" Meals are the least of my worries with him--he doesn't even eat some days. And there's always Domino's.

I started a flurry of Facebook messages with two friends at church who DO know the situation, and also have experience with chronic illness. One, who also has a chronically ill husband, said, "People just don't get it."

Our final conclusion? It's one thing to have faith, and it's another to fling yourself (or someone else) off the pinnacle of the temple and expect the angels to catch you.

My primary ministry in this season of my life is to take care of my husband to the extent he needs it. Any other ministry opportunities have to fit in around that, and also can only take up so much of my energy. I turned down another ministry opportunity more recently, even though it would have been right here in town and maybe only once a week, because I felt I didn't have the energy. I prayed about it, and did not get any sense the Lord wanted me to do it.

The Lord knew my husband was going to break his wrist slipping on the last ice of the season.

This weekend I'm going to go sit on the couch at my local yarn store for an hour or three, and knit and chat with whoever else is there. It's not the same. But it's as close as I can come right now.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

I know not how

Once I had my own plan for my life....

Ruth Simons of wrote in a recent blog post:
We tend to strive and maneuver ourselves to gain the life we think we want, but I dare say, the Lord is merciful to cause the most wondrous blessings to occur apart from fine-tuned plans and well-rehearsed strategies. That's how he gets the glory and we get to be his children. He delights in using those who think they've been forgotten, whose giftings aren't fully realized, whose daily decision to be faithful right where they are trumps being fabulous elsewhere. (emphasis original)

I so relate to this. I strove and maneuvered through my 30's for my own ambitions, only to crash and burn. Now I sit feeling forgotten and like I've failed in realizing my giftings.

I'm focusing on the wrong part of her sentence.

Ruth Simons is writing from the other side of this experience, the blessing side, and it gives me hope. Hope that the place where I'm at could lead to God using my talents for His glory. That He would delight in that?

I don't know what that might look like. One "daily decision to be faithful right where I am" means working full time at an office. I used to dream of writing full time while my husband supported me (until I made the big time anyway), but that's a dream I've given up on. His disability check all goes for his medical care, the part that my company-sponsored insurance plan doesn't cover.

I do have an unexpected blessing in my job--I'm now writing for a living. It's technical writing, documentation for the software my employer produces. I'm thankful to the Lord that He maneuvered me into a corporate writing job. It certainly wasn't by my maneuvering!

I still feel drawn to writing that's a little more creative, and I still feel the Lord wants me to blog. I decided I should write one blog post a month for the first half of 2016 and re-evaluate mid-year. So here I am on January 30th banging out a post that will go out today or tomorrow, ready or not.

If the Lord's plan for my writing involves more than software documentation, it'll happen on the Saturday mornings and the occasional other little chinks of time between work and laundry and dog-walking. And the following scripture indicates to me that I don't have to know how it's going to happen.
And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”--Mark 4:26-29 (ESV)

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The maker movement is simply rediscovery

I was listening to the Woolful podcast recently and the interviewee said something that really got me thinking.

We used to make, to mend, because it was a necessity to life, Now, I'm seeing more and more, people are making to mend their bodies and their minds. It's a therapy....
-Tif Fussel

I re-started crocheting and knitting in 2008, when my husband was in the hospital for six weeks following surgery. I learned to knit and crochet in childhood, but hadn't touched it in years. However, I was starting to go a bit stir-crazy sitting by his hospital bed, and I suddenly thought, "I could be crocheting!" I made time to pick up a pattern book with instructions to refresh my memory, and some yarn, and it's been a constant ever since.

I think it's historically been common for women to work on their handwork when sitting at the bedside of a sick person. Of course, historically, women always had sewing, mending, etc. needing done; I've seen an old photograph taken somewhere in Scandinavia showing young women knitting as they walked across the fields. Because it's not that long ago that if anyone were going to have warm socks or sweaters in the winter, someone had to knit them. If you were going to have clothes, someone had to sew them by hand. You had to take every opportunity to work on clothing items, when you weren't churning butter or washing your pots & pans & dishes by hand.

Most of us wouldn't want to go back to the days when all but the very wealthy HAD to be makers to survive. We like that our knitting, crocheting, spinning, etc. is a leisure activity. But more than that, like Tif Fussel I'm hearing many makers say that it's benefiting them in certain ways.

Evidence is growing that needle arts are good for the brain. It may even delay the onset of dementia. Simple knitting can serve to help you pay attention in meetings and such---see Cognitive Anchoring by Heather Ordover. There's even a book called Crochet Saved My Life. People are crediting handcrafts with emotional healing.

And yet, I doubt the old hand-knitters of the Yorkshire Dales considered knitting therapeutic. They churned out socks, gloves, and fisherman's sweaters day and night for pennies per item to supplement their meager incomes (until the industrial revolution put them out of business) .

So how did knitting go from drudgery to the magic cure-all?

I think the transformation of western economies to where so many of us are knowledge workers of one stripe or another, where all of our work is done with a keyboard and a mouse, is no more good for us than any kind of excess. Staring at a screen all day starves a fundamental aspect of how we were created. 

We were created to do and make things with our hands. Our brains as well as our bodies were wired for it. So when you've been neglecting this aspect of your inborn nature and then you start using it---it just feels good!

There's something about doing things with our hands that keeps us in tune. And we still need to think as well. We don't need to chuck everything else and just knit all day... what we need is balance. 

Some people do have a calling to knit a lot, to design knitwear, and so forth. And those people should also spend some time doing other things that aren't knitting. Like baking, balancing their budgets, bicycling. You can get a repetitive stress injury from knitting as surely as from keyboarding. Those Yorkshire knitters could have used a break from knitting; alas, they were in survival mode.

We modern denizens of Ravelry, and other makers, occupy a unique position in the history of humanity. Yes, we have to specialize to earn a living--but we don't usually have to work day and night at that specialty. We can earn enough in 40 hours a week to give our leisure time over to something that exercises other capacities. It is actually possible for us to have some balance.

So actually, becoming a maker isn't some kind of salvation. It's just a way to wake up a part of your brain that might have been atrophying. Be grateful for it, sure. But don't elevate it overmuch.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

What not to tell people not to say

I started to write one of those "what not to say" blog posts. 

Of course there are scads of those on every sensitive topic imaginable. There were scads of them on MY topic. I Googled the phrase "what not to say" and got over two BILLION results. Some are tongue in cheek, but far more are serious and earnest.

Now, let's be clear: these kind of articles and posts aren't aimed at people who deliberately say mean, unkind, cutting or abusive things. Those people wouldn't read a "what not to say" article anyway. "What not to say" articles are mostly aimed at the well-meaning but clueless.

It seems there's no shortage of people who have gotten bent out of shape over what someone's said to them. Including me, yes.

One of the items I had intended to list was a single sentence spoken kindly, but in ignorance, which led to me sobbing right through a whole song at church. Was that sentence intended to make me cry? Of course not. It was intended to make me feel better. Not their fault it backfired.

Implicit in the whole concept of a "what not to say" article is the idea that I have some kind of right to expect everyone else in the universe to never say anything that makes me feel bad in any way--even accidentally. Is that even possible? It's a bit embarrassing to realize I got caught up in that kind of thinking 

Also implicit is the notion is that if we all just get educated enough, we could all say just the right thing to everyone in whatever trial they may be going through. This is the hope of those who read such articles, those who desire to never wound anyone with their words. An admirable hope, but again, I think it's too much to ask. How can one person ever know all of it? Two billion articles....

Here's the thing. It's inevitable that now and then someone will pop off and say something that just doesn't work. Maybe a stupid platitude; maybe an ill-timed and ill-considered joke. I'm not saying we shouldn't even try to say the right things at the right times. But we all fail. We're none of us perfect.

"And I will show you a still more excellent way.... Love is patient and kind.... It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.... Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." 1 Corinthians 12:31b, 13:4, 5, 7 (ESV)

Hm. Nothing in that chapter that even implies that love never says the wrong thing. In fact, it looks like it's on ME to stop expecting that no one will ever say the wrong thing to me. To give some grace. To be patient, to bear it, to endure. To cut the other person some slack, especially when I can tell they were just trying to be helpful.

"So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them..." (Matthew 7:12, ESV)

If I want other people to take what I say in the spirit in which I intended it, then maybe I should do the same for them.

Photos in this post are free stock photos courtesy of