Sunday, March 31, 2013

He Is Risen...

He is risen indeed!

This time of year evokes a wide expanse of emotions for me. Not far from my mind is the reality of all that Jesus Christ endured for the sake of all; For the sake of me; For the sake of my child; For the sake of you; For the sake of our relationship with The Ultimate in Power and Love and Wisdom and Grace; For the sake of our eternal life with our Maker, The Heavenly Father...Whenever I reflect on the hardships I've encountered, the pain I've dealt with, or the uncertainty of what will be when I embark on living God's will, I remember that  none have experienced anything in the same capacity as our Savior. He endured the greatest in pain, anguish, and death.

While in conversation with my sister the other day, we touched upon my current standing within my faith and in heeding God's call: at His behest I created this blog, mindful to keep it His, not mine. Through this journey I am finding thoughts and feelings awakened within me that go against all I thought I knew of myself. To some extent I feel that I am lying to my former self or I'll think, Was my former self lying to me? Through all of this questioning I found that I am not convinced I am prepared for what God has in mind for me on the other side of this endeavor. The uncertainty of my feelings in regards to exposing myself the way I have can be debilitating. There is no surety in what will come to, or what this will mean for, my family. Sometimes, the idea of the possibilities of where this may lead makes me want to stop. Still, I genuinely pray that God's will is to be done, recognizing that this course is less about me and all about God.

Many of these revelations came to fruition while talking with my sister and she gracefully reminded me of Jesus' prayer to The Heavenly Father asking relief from his hour: to be the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of our sins. Jesus pleaded to be spared the suffering. To be sent to a place void of God following a gruesome physical death, and to carry the entirety of sin for all of time knowing God is so pure and good He is unable to save you from true death or even look upon your face, is a formidable burden. But Jesus knew his purpose and while he asked for God to relieve him of this responsibility, he still prayed for God's will to be done. 

~ Matthew 26:38-39 ~ 
38 Then he said to them, "I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay away with me." 39 And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want."

~ Mark 14:34-36 ~ 
34 And he said to them, "I am deeply grieved, even to death remain here, and keep awake." 35 And going a little further, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 He said, "Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want." 

~ Luke 22:41-44 ~
41 Then he withdrew from them about a stone's throw, knelt down, and prayed, 42 "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done. 43 Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. 44 In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground. 

His purpose was to carry the weight of all of our wrong doings and evil ways, paying the absolute price for our salvation, giving us entry into God's kingdom and thus the gift of eternal life. The magnitude of this preordained end to his life is inconceivable... 

That reminder of Jesus' prayer brought much into focus: Jesus was human too. Jesus struggled with the acceptance of his purpose. Just like you and me, Jesus had a vast range of emotions. I expect more so. He felt despair and anguish at what was expected of him. Jesus' human self did not wish to endure what was to come at his hour. But Jesus wasn't just human, he was divine. Jesus is God in human flesh. He had an intimacy with The Father incomparable to anyone else, but that relationship didn't keep Jesus from wanting something different for his self. While he was an extension of God in the flesh, he was still of the flesh. Jesus was susceptible to the same temptations as you and me, beyond you and me. In the gospels we are taught the divinity of Jesus on earth; however, the gospels also show that Jesus was human struggling with what was required of him. He knew his role from birth, and as he grew he continued in steps towards his hour to come. Jesus was the official conduit of God The Father. He voiced God's words, God's message, and God's salvation. He knew he was meant to die a torturous death. He knew he was to be resurrected, saved by God after he fulfilled the purpose God gave him. The knowledge and understanding of his resurrection didn't suppress his desire to be spared the series of actions to achieve the result of his mission.

How does this realization of Christ as a human with human emotions help me? Well, I have many conflictions myself. On the one hand, I have been praying for God's will to be done, for God to open my heart so He may use me for His purpose, to reach His children. On the other hand, it scares me to think of what that really means. What will I have to do? What will it entail? However, I want nothing more than to follow the path He has laid before me. Yet, I do not know how to be what God needs me to be and I fear failure. However, God has impressed upon me certain revelations of what is to come throughout my life without the connectivity of the actual path to get there. I have a book in my heart that involves much research I know I am to write. I am not sure when or how I will get this book to be, or how it will reach those that it is meant for, but it will happen someday. My husband and I know we will be in that southern state, self-sufficient in living off of our land by homesteading. I have no idea how we are to get there, but God has gifted me with enough foresight to allow my continued faith to propel me further in His desire to have me start here. 

Jesus knew the mission God set before him, too. He surrendered to God wholly, as shown here:

~ John 12:27-28 ~
27 "Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say - 'Father, save me from this hour'? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again." 

God was not able to save himself. It was His will to bring us salvation, knowing it was only possible by sacrificing Himself through the flesh: The One and Only Son of God. 

Conflict exists between our need to put ourselves first and wanting God to ultimately be in control. If Jesus can overcome his human self and set aside his personal desires for the greater good of the heavens and for the sake of all of Gods' creations, then so can I. It's not enough to just tack on "But Your will be done, Lord." NO. We must believe within our entire selves that we are entrusting this decision to Him and His purpose. We have to have faith that no matter what we do, think, feel, we are putting ourselves aside to allow God the ability to further His will. I am a weak human that is strengthened by God's spirit through Jesus Christ. I need God to navigate my life. When I pray for His will to be done following all of my pitiful pleading to keep me from what is going to be a difficult and painful time, I am asking myself to move out of God's way in hopes of preventing a wall that thwarts God from intervening in all that I do.

While Easter is about Jesus' ultimate sacrifice of his life for ours through the physical torture, spiritual hell, and  his resurrection for the purpose of gifting you and me with eternal life, it is also about Jesus being a human example we can look to when we are in tough times. I cannot relate to Christ the Divine. The idea of the physical pain rocks my mind, the fact that he endured three days in hell - a place where God does not exist - is so unfathomable I am unable to wrap my head around it. His resurrection is actually easier for me to grasp because I know eternal life exists beyond this world. But for today, when I am struggling in my relationship with my Heavenly Father in doing as he commands, I am able to relate to the human flesh Jesus Christ that struggled with his God given destiny much the same way I do. 

May you all have a wonderful Easter, remembering all there is to know about the greatest gift God has ever given His children: Eternal life through His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, who sacrificed more than we will ever be able to fully comprehend or appreciate. 
God bless and Happy Easter...

Friday, March 29, 2013

A Note To You

This is a note in an effort to communicate with all of you what to expect over the next couple of weeks. Today is Good Friday, Sunday is Easter. Between the holiday this weekend and a full schedule for next weekend I want to make sure everyone is up to date on what to expect here at The Paisley Butterfly... 

I have a few articles in the works, though they are turning out to be more involved than I had initially anticipated. Two of them will fall within Dove's Landing, one of which will be posted Easter Sunday. I also have a couple of projects that I have either finished or am about to get started on to be featured in Re-Imagined. I even have a short story for Penned ;)

I ask that you bear with me. Some of these topics become so involved that it takes time in my commune with God to really grasp the message He wishes for me to share, along with coming to terms with how much I am expected to expose of my experiences...As far as the projects, well, sometimes it becomes time consuming to organize the post layout with the pictures. Between holidays, crazy schedules, and being a stay at home mom/house wife, my days don't exactly go as planned. That is not to say that I am not constantly working on my blog posts within my mind, but I'm not always in a position to get them typed up and posted. 

So, you may see a few days without a single word from me, then all of a sudden see three or more posts at once. I hope you are as eager to read what is to come as I am to get it all out! Please check back frequently over the next couple of weeks for what I have to share :)

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Ugly Bench Transformation

I have absolutely no idea where this bench came from. It came into our possession about eight years ago and was hideous then. What you see here in the before pictures is an improvement from when I first laid eyes on it. I painted the chew/scratch marks with brown water color paint, and cut up an old sweater for the seat...

Still ugly, but improved. I know, hard to believe! Upon moving into our current house, I placed the bench in the bathroom only to find it actually made our bathroom even more sad. It's a mix of white and beige and bland. This bench did nothing to help the aesthetics. We had a small container of stain left over from a table my husband created from a crate and a sheet of shelf liner from the kitchen that was the perfect size. 

Here is how I transformed this ugly, nondescript piece of furniture into a mid century modern inspired bench:
  1. After removing the seat - it was not fastened to the base - I sanded all of the wood with a sanding block: a very fine sanding block, but it did the trick. My goal wasn't to completely sand out all of the dings and scrapes. I wanted to create a surface that would permit the stain to soak into the wood. We like rustic, lived in furniture and elements in our home. 
  2. Then, I used damp rag to remove all of the saw dust and to open the wood grain to allow maximum absorption of stain.
  3. Next, using a different rag I stained the entire piece. If you care about how your hands will look after the fact, I recommend wearing gloves. They will be stained. Even if you are able to remove all of the stain from your hands it will live in the creases of your fingernails for a few showers. 
  4. Once the stain dried I applied polyurethane as a protective coating. 
  5. In between steps 3 and 4, I removed the various layers of fabric from the seat saving the upholstery nails. I was unable to remove the original layer of fabric, but it doesn't matter that it's there. 
  6. Centering the seat on the backside of the shelf liner, I pulled the edges flush using masking tape to hold  the liner in place to allow for easy corner duty.
  7. Using the preexisting upholstery nails, I pulled the liner over the corners in a 'V' fashion and tacked them in place.
  8. Because I am sometimes over cautious, I placed masking tape around the seams where the liner met the seat for added support. I know there are other products that would be better (spray adhesive or staples) but I am working with what I have in an effort to spend as little money as possible. 

Now, we have a beautiful bench that brightens up our entire bathroom! 

The piece looks brand new and it cost me nothing. This particular revamp used materials left over from previous projects. The stain and polyurethane were left over from my husbands prior rehabbing, costing $4 each. My sister had an overabundance of shelf liner and passed the extra to me. With a little bit of imagination, a lot of elbow grease, and some time an amazing transformation is tangible! This bench looks brand new and vintage inspired :)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Paper Towel Roll Finger Puppets

Last week, my son and I were playing on the floor flipping through various High Five magazines. He was determined to find stories he wanted me to read and puzzles he wanted to play. In the back of these magazines are craft projects and one such project caught my eye: making monsters out of paper towel rolls. Unbeknownst to my son, I was going to change up our original plan of reading and doing puzzles. The craft bug hit me hard! It wasn't difficult to get him on board with me. Actually, I think it excited him more than reading and puzzles: he was going to get to use scissors! 

Unfortunately, I did not have all of the items they called for to make such monsters, but I was determined to find a way to make something with paper towel rolls. Rummaging through my craft supplies I found a plethora of buttons, water color paint tablets, skewers, and random miniature bows and thread. Other supplies included: two pairs of scissors (an adult pair for me and a child pair for my son), glue, markers, and paintbrushes. All of which I had on hand. Here is how we made them together:
  1. I cut the paper towel roll into quarters and pinched the tops. 
  2. After filling a cup with water for the paint (he was proud to have done this by himself), we painted our puppets. 
  3. Once dry, under the supervision of my son I placed drops of glue for the button eyes and bow tie mouths.
  4. Then, I handed my son a piece of paper from when I had calibrated my printer (it had a bunch of successive dashes) to first color, then practice cutting along the lines in hopes of creating sashes. 
  5. Meanwhile, I poked the holes for the arms, again allowing my child to chose their placement. 
  6. Upon completion of cutting and coloring we glued the sash. 
  7. Finally, after I cut the sharp ends off of the skewers, I shoved them into the holes using twisty ties to fasten them to each other inside of the puppet body. This helped in preventing them from falling out.
  8. Completed, we placed the puppets on our fingers and played!
There are many supplies that can be added or used to replace the items above. Colorful pipe cleaners would make wonderful limbs and can twisty themselves. If you have little eyes feel free, but don't be afraid to be creative. Popcorn kernels, seeds, or beads would make great eyes or mouths. One could use macaroni noodles, construction paper, glitter, etc. to dress the puppets. Look around your house and see what you can transform into body parts. Envisioning something with new purpose is half the fun of crafting!!

Without cost, my son and I enjoyed an art project that allowed him to exercise practice in using scissors, making choices of color and placement, and creating something from nothing. Through this experience, he was rewarded with not only new toys, but a sense of accomplishment :)

The Counter Top Challenge

One of the features we fell in love with in this 1930's house is the uninterrupted length of counter space. What we found, however, is that white paint had been applied over contact paper. As we cleaned the paint began to lift turning my sponge white. Over a very short time, continued cleaning revealed pockets of the color it was covering. Not to mention, the color of the sponge was beginning to show on the paint creating a counter that looked dirtier with every wipe. Whether using a cleaning product or just water made no difference. The paint was not conducive to kitchen use. We became concerned with safety. If the paint was that easily picked up just by wiping, what was getting into our food? We talked about picking up a piece of acrylic or plexi-lass to place on top of the counter to give us a smooth clean surface, but we weren't sure we were prepared to put up that kind of money. Plus, the mess of a counter would still be visible. However, it wasn't far from our minds that we are not allowed to make any permanent changes. It's part of our rent agreement. We were left to think of a creative solution to make this work for us. 

While at the Dollar Tree one day, we came across contact paper and a solution was born. My husband asked how I felt about it and I was committed. Contact paper is removable, which is what makes this a temporary solution. Also, it's super easy to clean.We chose a green paisley inspired print, purchasing three rolls that ended up being the perfect amount. Two hours and $3 later, we had a cleanable, colorful, and usable counter top. I applied the contact paper much the same way one would hang wallpaper using the back of the counter as the ceiling and the front as the floor, overlapping each strip by a quarter of an inch. The house isn't square, or is old - remember 1930's? Running the paper in this direction allowed for fewer opportunities of noticing how much this house has shifted. Another benefit to laying it like this: there is less surface area per strip to allow bubbles or crinkling of the paper. I will say, though, that there are bubbles in mine, but I don't mind because the counter top has dips and bumps that I can't change, so there was no need for me to be a perfectionist. I quite think I may have lost my mind if I attempted to create a perfect end result. 

As far as the profile, I did this in a separate step. The large strips covered just the top of the counter, ending at the molding that creates the profile. I laid the strips to overlap the top surface a quarter of an inch. After smoothing the paper over the profile, I tucked it under the counter as much as I could. The profile is so detailed, much pressing was involved to ensure the adhesion of the paper to the wood molding. I did the same thing on the back of the counter to create a semi-straight line with the scraps, covering  the back splash about an eighth of an inch. Just enough to clean it up. The blue glass pulls are courtesy of my mom. She bought them years ago on sale and now no longer has use for them. I am happy to take them off of her hands :)

The window treatment: I have my husband to thank. Our kitchen window looks out to a public park and while the view is beautiful, we learned that one could see everything within our kitchen. We needed a solution that allowed us to enjoy the view, but gave us a sense of privacy. For whatever reason, my husband was rummaging in the basement when he found these old shutters. I cleaned them up and propped them on the sill. They are not fastened - no permanent changes - but the sill is wide enough to support their size. I do have to believe that at one time, these very shutters were hung in the windows of the dining room. For whatever reason they were taken down. Topping the shutters with the curtains my mother handed off completes the window. I'm telling you, second hand stuff is really great! We have been very fortunate that the items we've found or had passed on to us coordinate very well. I guess like people have like decorating pallets :)

A few things I have learned about contact paper over the past month: 

  1. While it is cleanable, one needs to be careful of a few things: If acidic products are left for a long period of time the contact paper will stain. Example: anything tomato based. I learned this after I found a stain. 
  2. Using a sponge that is too abrasive, or continued scrubbing can lift the color of the paper. It's not super noticeable, but over time it would make a visible difference in the appearance.
  3. Letting cleaner sit too long is not recommended. I am an avid believer in cleaning as you cook. Not only will it help with reducing elbow grease to remove the crusty, you won't have to spend time afterwards to clean. I know some things need to soak for a little bit of time to ensure easy wipe ability;  However, spraying an abrasive cleaner and letting it soak for too long may allow it to creep into your seams and loosen the adhesive. Remember, this is a removable product. 
  4. Pushing or pulling heavy appliances across the surface is not recommended. It will tear the contact paper. I tried placing our heavy microwave on the counter and them shimmy it into place. Guess what? I had tears where the four legs were pushed across the counter. Fortunately we inherited a microwave stand from a friend, and I had saved the scraps of contact paper. I cut little pieces to cover the holes. Now my much lighter toaster oven covers the patchwork...well, not all of it, but most. You can't see it in the pics though can you? ;)
  5. Chose a pattern, not a solid color. Trust me, those mentioned above will be much less conspicuous by your guests with a pattern.
I may have made mistakes along the way, but it is all worth it. I figure that if I were to completely ruin this beautiful counter top I made it would be perfectly fine. Why? It was only $3 and it is easily removable. We are no where near that, though, so I continue to enjoy this solution...

With a shutter put out to pasture, hand me down curtains and pulls, and $3 worth of contact paper a stark white kitchen transforms into a warm and inviting space for inspiration! 
Looking for solutions outside of where we are used to searching opens up a world of creativity and originality. I feel amazing every time I work in my kitchen knowing that 
a little bit of elbow grease, even less money, and a whole lot of imagination 
gave me a wonderful place to experiment with food and recipes :) 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Walking In Faith

What is faith?

"Faith is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see" ~ Hebrews 11:1

How does one perceive Faith within their daily lives? There is no such thing as one fits all when it comes to answering questions of what Faith really means. Faith is an abstraction. Faith is intangible. Faith is subjective. At least it is within the depths of each of us. 

The more one understands what Faith is for them, the more one's Faith is tested. The more personal Faith becomes, the harder it is to describe. For me, Faith has become a way of life. I walk in Faith. However, it took time for me to get here. Not to mention, I continue to be tested in my Faith. The more Faith I gain, the more I am tested. It brings to mind the story of Abraham, found in Genesis 11:18-25:11. I recommend reading it, for I cannot do justice in summarizing it here. 

So, here is the best example of which I can give of my understand of the journey of Faith:

Think of Mathematics. In order to get to a higher understanding of Math, one first needs the knowledge of the basic principles. In order to understand the basic principles, one needs to know the building blocks. The building blocks are numbers. Once a person understands what numbers are, how they look, and their succession that person can build on that understanding. The next step would be addition and subtraction. Once basic arithmetic is mastered the student becomes familiar with multiplication and division. Next comes algebra, and then trigonometry, and after that calculus. Math doesn't get easier the further you go into it. In actuality, it becomes more complex, but the understanding and knowledge of what came before prepares one to gain further knowledge and understanding. This is how Faith works too. 

As I have mentioned in previous posts, my husband and I have struggled financially our entire marriage. Whatever mistakes were made became irrelevant. What led us here only mattered in the form of what not to do next time: How can we change our methods for the future? How can we build upon what we have learned to better ourselves? When we felt called to have our first child, it was a unanimous feeling. Regardless of our financial situation, we knew God wanted us to have a child. We had to trust that we would be financially stable. When our son was born, we were at first concerned with how to provide all of the things necessary for a baby: clothing, diapers, toys, bed, etc. We prayed. And prayed. Our prayers revolved around God providing what we needed to allow us to provide for our child. That included being able to buy groceries, pay rent, keep cars running, and utilities. But praying is only half of the equation. If we didn't believe in God's ability to answer these prayers of ours, then He wouldn't be able to answer our prayers. We had to have Faith that God would provide all we needed. Notice I said needed, not wanted. There is a vast difference. 

One of the parables of Jesus that entered my mind frequently during this time was Luke 12:16-32 ~

    16 Then [Jesus] said told them a parable: "The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17 And he thought to himself, 'What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?' 18 Then he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.' 20 But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' 21 So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God." 
    22 He said to his disciples, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 26 If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you - you of little faith! 29 And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. 30 For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you needed them. 31 Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. 
    32 "Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom."

Do not worry. That was what I focused on. Every time my fears of being able to afford all of these things we needed entered my mind and I began worrying over what to do and how to do it, I was reminded of this parable. Then, I would pray. It became a constant struggle for me to forsake my worry in hopes of renewing my Faith. What used to be a struggle from one hour to the next, became a struggle from one day to the next, then one week to the next. Before I realized it I was living in Faith, not worrying about how we would be provided for. I was able to enjoy what I did have: my child, and sharing in that joy with my husband.

Do you want to know what else happened? God used friends and family to provide for my family. I had friends allow me to borrow maternity clothing. My mother threw a baby shower that resulted in all furniture being provided for. Friends and family passed on clothing and toys that their kids had outgrown. Everything was provided for. 

Witnessing God's fulfillment of His promise allowed me to build on my Faith. We decided that one of us needed to stay home with our child. Sparing details, with the two of us working we found that we weren't getting the time with our child we believed to be crucial, and that our wishes weren't being met when he was with the sitter. Our quality of life was suffering. We prayed about this adjustment to our lifestyle and upon reflection and discussion came to the conclusion that our best course of action for our family was for me to become a stay at home mother. Again, we were concerned with how we would make it. God reminded us of all He had provided previously, so we exercised the same trust and grew within our Faith. That is not to say that there weren't trials and tribulations to overcome. Quite frankly, one must expect hardship when walking in Faith. You cannot get away from it. So, we endured all that life threw at us. We dealt with opposition from some family members, from society, and even those that had no right to have an opinion on our lives, let alone voice them. But that comes with following the path less traveled. 

Yes, we continued to struggle financially, but we held firm to the belief that God blessed our decision to have only one working parent. Our belief that having a parent present for the minute by minute interaction with our child outweighed any financial gain to be made by having a two income household. We wanted to be the ones responsible for every aspect of our child's development, and knew that in doing so our home life would become better in our relationships with each other. 

We still met with many tribulations and found ourselves in a situation where our only option was to move in with another family. This was the hardest thing we have ever had to do. It brings to mind the joke of the man praying to God to save him from the flood. A boat rolls by and offers the man on the roof a ride, and the man responds, I am waiting for God to save me. The man lifted his head and continued to pray for God's salvation. This happens three times. The man drown and upon meeting his Maker asked God, 'Why didn't you save me?' God responded, 'I sent you three boats.' 

The moral of that story is that you never know in what form God's help will come. Whether it's from second hand items, or friends whose hearts have been warmed and opened to welcome you into their home for a season, recognizing God's answer to prayer often relies on the acceptance of aid offered by our fellow brothers and sisters.

So, here we are living in a beautiful house, following our hearts in choosing to have me stay at home with our son, and praising The Lord for providing us with all of the things we need. We have so much more now that we ever had, including our constant and growing Faith. Our family unit is strong and close, my marriage grows deeper spiritually, and our child is learning that life doesn't end when times get tough. There are valuable lessens for children who have the opportunity to witness how their parents deal with hardship. We have an ongoing philosophy in my family that we remind ourselves with when we are having trouble with tough times: it's not what's happened to you, it's how you choose to deal with it. 

I don't know what God's plans are for me, but I do know that aligning my heart with God's through Faith will not lead me astray. No matter what trials are to come God will not forsake us. Faith allows God to deliver us from ourselves in hopes of becoming what we were created to be in God's image...

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

"Will You Please Stop Saying No To Me?!"

This is the most common phrase coming out of my three and a half year old's mouth, as of late. It is adorable. He is so passionate about being heard and listened to, and clearly frustrated that I am not giving him what he wants, when he wants it. Hand gestures often accompany his expressive face...

From saying no to playing a game online, to saying no to a snack, my child is having trouble accepting that Mommie is keeping something from him: what he understands as something good. He has yet to grasp why I say no. Of course, that's my job as a parent: To explain the why's to him, in order to help him comprehend the bigger picture: what is beyond the actual object that is being kept from him. 

Just yesterday morning, my son asked if he could play a game on the computer. We have two programs downloaded on our computer that don't involve accessing the internet. I said yes, but that it had to be one of those games. I listed his options; he asked for games on PBS. I said that was not an option, and stayed firm. This resulted in him yelling at me, "Will you please stop saying no to me?!"
 Then, he threw himself on the ground, kicking his feet while crying into the carpet. Ah, another tantrum :) Ok, I'm not really smiling...well, I kind of am. How does a parent not find the humor in a tantrum? 

I tend to handle tantrums in two different ways, depending on the surrounding circumstances. If it's derived from his need to get some sleep, I send him to his room, and sometimes cry and whine in his manner, which elicits a good old laugh from him. He is then calmed enough to pretty much pass out by the time I've made it down the stairs. Or, I'll just make him lay his head down on a pillow with his blanket. 

If it's from his need to push boundaries, coupled with his lack of acceptance, as a way of asserting his independence, I'll pick him up and set him somewhere void of stimulation. He stays until he is over himself and willing to accept my terms. I will say, there are moments he is quite apt at negotiating terms, and depending on how well he has articulated himself and his case, I will meet him halfway. Hey, we all need to learn how to negotiate...but this is about when he just won't listen, and there is a clear reason that I am saying no. 

Now, the two main issues I have with him when it comes throwing tantrums are when he doesn't get to play with/how/when he wants (as mentioned above), and when I deprive him of food he feels necessary to his well being... 

He actually said to me the other day, "Mommie, I am going to die if I don't eat. My stomach hurts because I'm hungry..." He possessed a sad look on his face, with a slight whine to his voice as he held his stomach. He can be very theatrical. By the way, he had just eaten a full lunch of spaghetti with fruit and buttered bread an hour and a half prior to this complaint. A part of me is so proud that he understands the need of food - in moderation is where his understanding is deficient. Explaining to a three year old how digestion works, and why he has to wait to eat again, is very taxing. Not to mention explaining that just because you are aware of your tummy does not equate a tummy ache. And, not all tummy aches are derived from hunger. All I can do, is explain the best I can, and the next time he approaches with the same complaint, I reiterate...Having a child requires one to repeat. Repeat. Repeat. 

It can be very frustrating to constantly repeat one's self. Again, it comes with the territory of being a parent. And, quite frankly, I appreciate my son's comfort in asking questions in an effort to further his comprehension of his place in this world. 

What I appreciate about my son asking me to stop telling him no? He is expressing his frustration with hearing the word No from Mommie, and seeking understanding in why Mommie said no. He doesn't always accept it, though he doesn't have much of a choice, and eventually does come to acceptance. Even if it's short lived. We are communicating, participating in a dialog. I hope this line of communication continues throughout his life. I know I am going to scar him, no matter how hard I try not to; but, if he knows that no matter what, Mommie won't run away or shut him down because he made his feelings known, all the better.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Impromptu Leftover Salvage

Saturday afternoon I had a hankering for scrambled eggs and hash browns. I must say, though, the thought of cubing all of the potatoes necessary was very daunting, resulting in my resolve shrinking. However, when I looked in the fridge to get the eggs out, I was distracted by all of the left overs we had in our fridge from the previous weekend. Among them? Hash browns my husband had cooked to go with sausage gravy and biscuits! The sausage gravy and biscuits were also still in residence. What to do...

In my effort to not only satisfy my desire for eggs and hash browns, I decided to save myself from throwing away food that would expire in a mere day or two. On a mission, I continued perusing my fridge for other forgotten items. Case and point: I found four egg yolks from the frozen nougatine I made the previous day, and a couple handfuls of cherry tomatoes close to their demise. A scrambler was born! 

To begin with, I placed the leftover hash browns, complete with seasoning and onions, in a miniature bread pan - as to fit in my toaster over - and set the toaster oven to toast for about 7-10 mins. Note to self: Time will vary; Just keep an eye on it - It is very easy to burn things in the toaster oven.  

While tots were toasting, I combined my egg yolks with four more eggs and the sausage gravy. The egg mixture met the oiled iron skillet. I kept the heat at med-high, but I do not have a stove and used our plug in electric burner that is not consistent at all, so I had to baby sit it. Sometimes turning the heat up; other times, turning it back down. All the while, periodically running my spatula along the bottom of the pan and flipping the eggs in order to ensure that everything cooked. 

While everything danced with the heat, I chopped up the previously unloved tomatoes into quarters. 
By the time I finished my chopping, the toaster oven dinged, revealing crispy cubed hash browns. 

After mixing the tots in with the eggs and sausage, 
I added the tomatoes, stirring until blended. 
Once tomatoes were heated through, I served up lunch.  
It was yummy!!! And what I wanted: I didn't have to do an extraneous amount of prep work, and I cleaned out my fridge without throwing food away!! I smell - and taste - success :)

Later, for dinner, we had what was left over from the egg scrambler I made - yes it was that good. My husband put cheese on it. I don't know why I didn't do that the first time...I love cheese! I usually add it to everything...
Anyhow, I noticed I had an almost empty container of sour cream, which is great with just a spoon, and decided to put it on my eggs, too - after I added hot sauce. Now, I'm hooked: egg scramblers must always have hot sauce and sour cream! I can't believe I have never tried it before!

In closing, this post isn't so much about how to make each element within the dish, but to inspire creative forces of re-inventing leftovers :) Maybe I should have posted this under the Re Imagined page :)

Hope this helps you clean out your fridge! If you have a dish that is a combination of various left overs, please share! :)

The Feature Wall

As I have mentioned, we are not permitted to paint any of the rooms in our rental. Which is fine. Everything is white. A huge improvement from a previous rental - Everything was yellow: walls, ceiling, and floors in a blonde wood laminate (it was beautiful, but I can only handle so much yellow)... 

So, our white dining room boasts a cathedral ceiling and two large windows, along with five entries. There are three doors on one wall housing the open entry into the living room, next to that is the door to the stairs, and then the bathroom. On the wall perpendicular, there is a door to the laundry room, and opposite the wall of three pass through's is the opening to the kitchen. Which means...

There is only one wall to make a statement and set the tone for the room, and that is the wall with the windows. Where did we start? With what we already have: a rolling cart passed on to us from my mother-in-law, and two curtain panels that my mother no longer had use for - I am very happy she kept them, and that I was the one to reap the benefits of the forethought to save those things she no longer has use for. She practically furnished my house.

Side note: Most of my house is furnished with second hand items. Either a hand me down from a friend or family member that no longer had use for the item, or found at a garage sale and gifted to us, or picked up off the side of the road, like my dining rm.table - 
which will be featured at a later date. I have plans to refinish it :) 

The panels are beautiful! One is green. 
The other an ivory pinstripe. 

The only problem? I had one of each. 
I wanted these in the dining room, but I didn't 
want two different window treatments. 

My solution? I cut them in half and sewed them to their neighbor...

...My goal was to create a look of one long window treatment. 

Then, the rolling cart was placed between the two windows with the thought that if we needed more counter space we could roll it into the kitchen. My husband and I decided to hang an oil crayon drawing I had created long ago above the cart. It was composed of the right colors and scale. In agreement on how to finish our feature wall, we went our separate ways to work on other parts of the house. I went upstairs to work on our child's play room, and he went to his man cave to organize. About an hour later, my husband called me downstairs to show me what he accomplished: his man cave...Or so I thought...

The moment I entered the dining room, my husband began rambling, "I don't know what happened, or why I started doing this. I just saw three nails in the wall there, and thought of our hats on them. I didn't even realize what I did until I was done. So, do you like it? I'm sorry..."

I was blind sighted by my husbands decorating endeavor - it was not what we had hour ago. However, it is perfect :) Due to the neutrality of the decor, it lends freedom to the refinishing of the other dining room furniture! :)

Even the decorations were things we already had on hand, with the exception of the church and antique car. 

The trinkets are two antique copper sculptures we found at a flee market, that we decided to purchase as house warming gifts to ourselves. They were originally $10 a piece, but my husband talked the price down to $5 a piece. I'm glad my husband found a home for them :) 

The grandfather clock, which actually belonged to my husband's grandfather, is mounted on the wall to give the appearance of resting on the rolling cart, allowing use of the cart in the kitchen if needed. 

And the cowboy hats: My husband's grandfather's hat is in the center, with ours flanking it.

For a space that has so many doorways, and serves as a multi-purpose space, I think it is a perfect representation of us: understated, rustic, and warm. 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Everything Is Temporary

I have been, and will most likely continue, writing about how we just moved into a new rental. It may seem that upon moving, all of these revelations have come to me...And to a degree, that is true. However, that's not to say that these thoughts, or feelings, or observations haven't been fermenting within my mind, soul, and heart for much time before the pivotal moment of moving into this lovely 1930's home. This is where I am to bloom. That said, I am reevaluating how I choose to look at the decisions to be made regarding my present and future life...

I am the kind of person that can over-think things until I have no idea where I began. I learned almost a decade ago that I had to adjust my analyzing process in order to lessen the mental turmoil I put myself through in making a decision...

...Who will be affected, and how? How can I make everyone happy? 
How do I do what's right? 
What does each scenario mean in terms of consequences? 
How will this decision affect me tomorrow, next year, two decades from now? 

The verdict: I can't make everyone happy; especially at the expense of myself. People are meant to grow. To change. To reinvent. I used to like ketchup when I was little. I don't anymore. 

As we grow and change, so do our minds. The important thing here, while weighing the pros and cons of the various consequences, ultimately, I need to decide if I will still like myself after following through with a decision. Can I live with this choice?

In order to achieve a non debilitating thought process, I remind myself to live in the present and remember that everything is Temporary...

So. Everything is Temporary. This life: temporary. This day: temporary. My child's tantrum: temporary. The clouds blanketing the earth: temporary. When it comes to deciding, I have to remember that not every decision is a choice that I will have to live with for the rest of my life. Some are decisions for now. 

Some are decisions impacting our lives forever forward: 

My husband and I hope to homestead. We want to move to a southern state with longer, milder seasons. We have over 1000 miles of which we will need to trek to get to said state from our current location. We are trying to be mindful of the logistics of making such a life altering decision. Research. Research. Research. How to choose where. The main objective is to find a place conducive to homesteading. Factors include climate, agriculture, economy, job opportunities, cost of living, housing values, schooling options, churches, family oriented activities, etc. The realistic expectations of preparing ourselves for the relocation. There is a lot of work involved. Time is necessary for a decision of this magnitude.

However, we needed a change now. What prompted us to move into our current rental was our need for more space. While we hope to buy a home in the near future elsewhere, we need a Temporary solution while we make our plans. So we searched for rentals, originally looking for a place in the country. That is just where our hearts reside. The open spaces, the beautiful scenery, living off the land, and the privacy. All things we love!

Guess what we found...Not homes in the country.

Another downside was that most of the available rental homes were void of appliances. There seemed to be some cruel joke being played on us: this was the first time lack of appliances was the norm. I freaked. I couldn't justify buying appliances we would only have for a year or two. I also didn't want to deal with them the next move. To that wonderful state that had our lifestyle waiting for us. 

So, what did we do? We picked the house in town, possessing the most space within our budget, and that had an 'us' feel to it. The house didn't have appliances. The yard is minuscule.

The benefits surpass the negatives ten to one. The reason? Temporary. When we began looking at this venture as a Temporary solution to our present lives, we realized what was important to us now. Renting is a Temporary solution. Renting does not cement us to our decision of picking a home. Right now, we need gas to go further and quality of life to improve. By refocusing our minds and hearts on the present, we found ourselves within walking distance from the park, the library, and the store. Plus, my husband is only five minutes from work. It is not quite our future dream come true, but it is a dream in it's own way. 

Though I won't have a stove, it's just Temporary and I can make that work. It's not for the next 50 years. We bought appliances out of necessity. We can sell them or give them to someone in need when we move again, because this is all Temporary. 

Remembering that everything is Temporary allows us to live in the Present. We gift ourselves with making the most of each day, each decision, based on what makes life worth living now. I have half of my future dream right now. Why would I choose not to embrace it? I am no longer living in wait of my future...

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Living In The Present

Living in the present sounds so much simpler than it is in actual practice. I don't know about you, but I have memories from the past, dreams from the future, and a list of responsibilities that are either past due, or due soon...How does one go about living in the present...truly living in the present?

Not without constant practice and least that's what I've learned!

Whenever I find myself feeling anxious about endless possibilities of how everything in life that is good could come crashing down around my feet, I remind myself that for Today, this is what I can change; that for Today, the sun is shining; that for Today, my son is in a fabulous mood; that for Today, my husband is smiling; that for Today, I have been successful – as I define the word...

So, with all of that stuff I have no control over trying to swarm my head, I just remember that Today, the Present, is all I have to worry about. What can I do Today?

What led me to focus my energy  mind, heart, and spirit  on living for the day? Well, everything...

My husband and I have struggled financially throughout our entire marriage. At this point, the why is no longer a part of any equation…Instead of just looking to the Past to learn from and move on, we realized we were quite living the Past. Constantly fearing the Past repeating itself, or our Past mistakes making another appearance later in our lives when we least expect it, and all that is good will dissipate. Just the fear that we would keep making the same mistakes over and over again, regardless of how hard we tried to better ourselves and to do it differently this time, became debilitating. We were afraid to truly believe in any good thing that began to happen, because for whatever reason there was, it seemed to be short lived. Every opportunity that was intended to change our circumstances seemed to be a joke on us…kinda hard to keep the faith – but we did! Faith is an amazing force…actually, you can’t live in the present and leave everything else behind without going forward in faith – but that’s another article :)

So, I have covered Past, but what about Future? 

We got lost in our dreams the way one gets lost in a spellbinding novel. We would talk about what kind of lifestyle we want to live: stay at home mom, homeschooling (someday, he’s too young yet), homesteading (need to buy a house, with land, first), own our own restoration shop on our property, and more. Then we would talk about all that getting to that dream life would entail. That future was so beautiful and perfect, we found ourselves sad at our current life. Believing what we have is not enough. Thoughts of When are we going to get there? became the most prevalent.

This is no way to live. Doubt, fear, sadness, all things negative...these things are not going to make us happy, or get us to the life we know is right for us. The changing point?

When we moved into this new rental, I fell in love with the house, as did my husband. We just seemed to fit; the house just fit. As much as we can’t make it our own, this house feels the most us than any other place we have ever lived – and we have lived in 9 different places in 9 years. I decided to embrace how this place made me feel. This place I felt comfortable in. When we moved our things in, they fit, too. And I don’t just mean size; I mean they fit in spirit, like we did. And that made me feel more like myself than I have ever known. The Future we want became more tangible.

One day my husband approached me a couple of weeks after we were settled. He disclosed that such a part of him was afraid of feeling too comfortable, to enjoy it too much. The reason? Everything else seemed to have been taken away from us just when we thought it was here to stay. After he shared this with me, I commiserated with him. I was feeling the same thing, but I don't want to let that define our experience here. As we talked, we decided not to let fear of losing win anymore...

I made a promise: To myself; To God. He wants us to live in the Present and leave all else to Him. Again, sounds incredibly simple, and it should be, but practice is hard. We are human with a likeness to God’s emotions…and those emotions can be very powerful. So, living in the Present for me is appreciating all God has blessed me with each and every day.

I remind myself of my loving husband, my incredible son, my dedicated family and friends, this beautiful home, the new day to accomplish new things, the sunshine, the birds chirping...and this blog – which was a very large push! But again, what am I waiting for? Am I waiting for my dream lifestyle to approach me before I throw myself into all things that speak to my heart and soul? Do I choose not to create, or share with others because I am waiting for something better to happen first? How does that make sense? Why not live the lifestyle I want as much as I can right now? 

I am finding joy in all of these beautifully blessed constants in my life and am crushing the negative wannabes. Fear, worry, and panic are no longer welcome in my life. If I remember to live in the Present and make it all I possibly can, I believe I will find myself in my dream future before I realize it. And at least this way, I am actually living life to the fullest while I wait.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


A few months ago, my friend and I decided to look up writing competitions. The idea was to practice our craft, not win the competition. Below is a short story I wrote centered around the usage of the word 'insanity'. How the writer chose to interpret, or put to use that word, didn't matter, as long as the word was used. Also, the story was to be 500-800 words. No more. No less. 

Here is what I came up with...

“This is complete insanity!” I exclaimed, as I walked the aisles of a retail store. I couldn’t help thinking, what is wrong with people? What is wrong with me? Why in the world did I allow myself to be talked into coming here, today, of all days?
   “No it’s not! It’s fun!” Said my over exuberant cousin, Stacy, who thrived on being seen and getting a good deal.
   “Yes, it is,” I countered with disgust. And I wasn’t ready to remove myself from my high horse, or pedestal, or whatever term or phrase one would like to insert here. Just hear me out.
   So, here I am with my cousin - that I hardly ever get to see - in the mall, in a store that has filled the aisles with racks of clothing that are now basically free…where am I supposed to walk? And even if I did find something I just had to have but needed to try on, when would I even get to use a dressing room? 
    “I think it should be outlawed that people subject themselves to this kind of torture. I mean, how did we all agree that it would be a brilliant idea to go out shopping on a day that the retailers of the world have promised us that we will be miserable?” This is where Stacy took a moment to look at me, this being the first, and raise her eyebrows at me – like I’m the crazy one. “Don’t look at me like that. I mean, really, is any deal really worth waking up before the sun has even decided to grace us with its presence and shove our way through shopping plazas for hours, like sardines on an escape mission from their can, just to save a few bucks?”
   “All I am trying to do is get some Christmas shopping done, and my dollar goes so much further on a day like Black Friday.”
   Well, isn’t she smug?
   “Really? What about all of those months prior that you could be scoping out sales and buying gifts gradually throughout the year? Wouldn’t that save you more money?”
   She didn’t answer me. I just wonder how we got here. As a whole, as humans. Is the deal really worth the insanity that ensues when you put so many people together in an incredibly confined space while brainwashing everyone to believe this is the deal of a life time? Are we afraid to say no to such retailers for fear that they will forever remove the sale prices from their products? And what about the people forced to work these jobs? Maybe they would like the day after Thanksgiving off. I know I would, and I did when I worked in retail. Of course, with this economy, if you have a job – Yay!
   “And look at those women.” Two aisles over, I became witness to a couple of women arguing over who deserved whatever item was on that shelf. “What could be worth creating a scene like that in public? What happened to putting others first? What happened to being fair? Where did the days go when it wasn’t always about the money?” I was half expecting them to get into a physical tug-of-war. But, they didn’t; though, a manager did approach them. Insanity.
   “You know, I wish your name was Debbie. It fits you better,” Stacy said sourly.
   “Oh? Why’s that?”
   “Then I could call you Debbie Downer. But as it is, your name is Joy – which is quite ironic considering you are the antithesis of the word today.” She was pissed. “Is it really too much to ask you to get into the spirit of the day for my sake? If you hated this then why did you come?”
   And to my dismay, she stormed off. In a huff – Great. And she is right. I didn’t have to come. But, it’s not like I think she’s insane. Well, OK maybe a little. Even if she isn’t half as crazed as those around us, she still chose to come out today. What is she enjoying out of this experience?
   Insanity…this day brings out the insanity in us all. Now, let’s try to contain ourselves next year and stave off the insanity for once. Maybe then it will truly be a Merry Christmas.