Finally!

My daughter taught me to crochet about eight years ago. At the time, we lived in a condo, with a really pretty cottage-country bedroom. The quilt on the bed was very nice, one of those mass produced supposed to look handmade patchwork quilts.

It actually was quilted, pieced and all, just not that unique, but I really liked it. So I decided what we really needed to add the finishing touch to a really sweet room was an afghan laying at the foot of the bed.

So my NellyBelle taught me how to single crochet. If you read my last blog post you will remember my past as a perfectionist. When I began the afghan, I didn’t understand that the tighter the stitches, the harder it would be, the longer it would take and the more yarn it would need to fit my queen-sized bed.

And the first several rows of stitches have no spaces between them. NO AIR and NO LIGHT. Perfect if you live in Antarctica. I do not. I live in the swanky, humid, confused weather-patterned Midwest.

See those lovely, perfectionist stitches?
Clearly PRE-grandchildren…;)

We moved out of the condo. The lovely quilt became the guest room quilt and eventually fell apart. I experimented with many new color schemes, and eventually found the afghan in all its unfinished mess. I did a few rows and eased up on the stitches. It went a little faster, but I just couldn’t quite get the hang of the whole turning part. Or how to knot the skeins together when one ran out.

Starting to loosen up a little by this point…

I realized at some point that I really didn’t have time to finish it, so it got buried in a closet somewhere. Life has a funny way of forcing the readjusting of priorities and projects. No more of that Urgent-Important, Urgent-Unimportant, Not Urgent-Important or Not Urgent-Not Important quadrant stuff for making good use of time. Not in Nana Land, anyway.

NellyBelle has since married, finished her residency, had a baby, bought a house and made her own toys for her little guy. My afghan was still a sorry mess.

Meanwhile, Superman and I decided to dedicate a room to my sewing and crafting and dreaming and writing. While emptying out the entire room and closet, Superman found the incomplete afghan project. I decided it was way past due on finishing this thing. I had too much time invested in the crazy thing to just throw it away, and I wanted to at least finish it and be done. I attacked that afghan with gusto.

I loosened up on the stitches, and it actually made the afghan “feel” better–not so hot or heavy. I considered turning it into a dress, but realized I would be one long lasting hot flash, and the world is just not ready for that. Talk about global warming! (Now that I think about it, I think that global warming could almost certainly be attributed to how much longer women are living and how many hot flashes we are all contributing to the atmosphere. Maybe the scientists could come up with a healthy solution for that??? Like, TODAY?!?!?!)

Digressing…anyway, in the last three weeks, I have tackled the turning problems and the loose stitches, and how to join the yarn AND made up a finishing edge that doesn’t look bad. All things considered. I don’t know if it is even a legitimate stitch, but if it wasn’t before, it is NOW!

Don’t you just love the way I tripled the stitches to edge the thing?

So now I have an orange/brown/blue/cream bedroom. My living room is grey/green/blue/cream and the afghan is lavender/periwinkle/green/dk green/cream. Hmmmmm…

I think I am ready to start a SMALLER project now…

Don’t tell her, but I am giving it to my mom. She thought it was so pretty when she saw me working on it, and it will be just perfect for her when she gets a little chilly. I even made sure the loosened stitches wouldn’t let the toes sneak through. And my dad? Well, he can’t appreciate the colors but I would imagine she will share it with him too…

Contrasting the old on the right with the new on the left…sigh…so glad it is finally finished!

Changes

The season is changing here in the midwest. And I am very thankful, let me tell you! After the Winter that wasn’t, we had such an awesome Spring that changed into half of a great Summer. Unfortunately, Summer turned into the Drought/Heat Wave of 2012.

But NOW, the air is brisk. Leaves are changing color and beginning to fall off the branches. Acorns and black walnuts are falling off the trees. Squirrels are scurrying. I have enjoyed seeing several large flocks of migrating birds visiting my bird feeders here and there. It also means that the hummingbirds and butterflies have journeyed to their Winter homes down South.

I continue to coax a bit of life out of the garden…hoping for some color for a few more weeks. And am still awaiting the opening of the mums.

Yesterday…FROST on the windshields! It was so wonderful!

There is something about this season that I find absolutely INVIGORATING! Coffee is especially great on those cold mornings. Snuggling under the blankets (and not suffering from heat flashes) and actually having a fire in the fireplace. I love this weather.

It isn’t just the weather that is changing.

Froglegs has learned to READ! It is a special experience now at bedtime to hear him reading to his brother and sister. There are times that childhood changes are mixed with sadness at the loss of that baby sweetness, but I must say hearing a child learning to put letters and words together is something very, very special for this Nana.

I remember when my oldest child learned to read. Shopping for groceries suddenly took A LOT LONGER because she wanted to read every. single. sign. On each and every aisle, every time we went into the store. You could see the smiles on other parents’ faces…they knew exactly what was happening. Such pride in those first successes at reading.

And pretty soon we were struggling to keep up with her. She read every book she could lay her hands on. She sacrificed recess to work on her school work. It had to be PERFECT in her mind. You know how those perfectionists are, don’t you?

Eventually, all three of my children were reading. Some enjoyed it, others tolerated it. Even my oldest one eventually began to HATE it because reading changed from something almost magical into the whole “read a book, write a report” scenario, and the joy of reading was temporarily lost. For about 15 years…

But now, she is a mommy and reads to her own baby…continuing to see those developmental changes for herself. They live so far away, but it was so much fun to get to hear her when they visited us over Labor Day.

And every day, I now get to enjoy listening to Froglegs reading his stories to me, and trying to sound out the words. And even better, trying to read his original stories that he writes out on his fabulous drawings.

I guess, for me, this season of Fall/Autumn has always meant “school”…memories of learning and playing with friends and reading contests at school and gold stars on worksheets… The awesome changes that came from LEARNING new things…

And…since it is Fall, I am reminded that I continue to learn…just how awesome God is, how very blessed I am, and how thankful I should be…

I hope I never get tired of learning. Are you still learning?

The Promise

As I sit out on the deck today, I am being reminded of God’s faithfulness in keeping His promises.

It’s not as though I deny that life can be excruciatingly difficult and tragic. I have seen and lived through enough heartaches and sorrows to have a basis on which I might question God…

But, I also have lived through the heartaches and sorrows only to know that as I walked through those dark and agonizing valleys, I was never alone. Even when I was physically alone, even feeling abandoned, I really wasn’t.

When my husband and I began the process of adopting two of our children, we had to go through an abandonment procedure, whereby our two children were officially “abandoned” by their biological parents. There is no easy way to deal with the emotions of this process…the laws of the country through which we were adopting required the publication of our children’s “datos” and “fotografías” in the major newspapers over a three week period.

That was a scary time for us, as we already had custody of our children, and we knew that there was the possibility of having someone step forward and claim them legally, even if they couldn’t prove their biological claims to our children.

For my happy-go-lucky husband, he lost that aspect during the entire adoption process. It was excruciating to have custody of these children for two years, knowing that they could still be taken away.

I remember asking anyone who would listen to please pray for us. Please pray for our adoptions to go through. Every time the government suspended international adoptions, we felt a sense of panic try to overtake our confidence in the Lord’s goodness and faithfulness to us.

Eventually, we received approved adoption decrees for our children. Children who had been placed for adoption for different reasons. Children who would never be able to know their biological roots. That is hardcore abandonment, people. And there is no easy way to explain that away, no matter how heart-wrenching their biological parents’ situations happened to be.

Adoptees handle their feelings about adoption uniquely. Some truly struggle with the idea that they were somehow unwanted. Others are filled with grief for the circumstances that made it impossible for them to remain in their biological family. There are obviously commonalities that many experience, but just like everyone else, the situations are as individual as the kids.

But one thing is consistently true for each one of us…when you have a relationship with Jesus Christ, you will never, ever be abandoned. He has promised to never leave or forsake His children. No matter how awful life can get, if you are His child you will not go through your sorrows alone. He promised.

 

Rocky Places

I was thinking about rocks. I collect them. There is something special about being able to have a chunk of creation that has withstood so much. Weather, earthquakes, floods, erosion.

My rocks vary in size and color, but honestly I can tell almost immediately WHERE the rocks were when I found them. I have these odd, old, little glass bowls and dishes that I buy at “antique” stores somewhere near the spot where I collected the rocks and then I display them. Somehow the combination of FINDING the rocks and BUYING the dishes help me keep things sorted out. (At least, that is what I tell myself.)

I must confess that on our last trip to visit my husband’s family in Alaska I returned with an ENTIRE SUITCASE FULL OF ROCKS. It weighed a lot. BUT I have treasures from Nome, Anchorage and outlying areas including some glaciers that we visited, so…I know, don’t judge me too harshly.

But of all the places we have been, I confess that the Grand Canyon amazed me. I did not return with a single rock. What I did return with was over 1500 photographs of rocks.

I had never been to visit that amazing wonder of the world until about 5 years ago. Somehow, my travels never really allowed me to get to that part of the United States.

The beauty of the formations is the result of damage. Wind. Rain. Floods. Glaciers. Fires. The canyons are not perfect. In fact, most areas are severely restricted so that we humans can’t mess them up any further than the elements and time have done.

During our visit, we came across scientists working with photographers who were chronicling the ongoing effects of our atmosphere on the formations. Somehow, they can translate the erosion into a scientific calculation to show how quickly or how slowly the decay is occurring. That was interesting. And mildly annoying because the photographers had the best views. But I digress…

In most areas, there were fences or signs indicated how far we could or could not go. Ostensibly for our safety, but also to preserve the grounds. Had we climbed beyond the safety point, I am certain we would have fallen because the ground was not sure. It was a rocky place, but have you ever tried to walk on rocks? They roll and shift and…and people like me fall down. I can feel the pain.

And yet, throughout the scriptures, we read of God being likened to a “rock.” Rocks symbolize strength. They can be a great source of safety if you fall over the edge…

don’t worry–he is a very good actor…

They provide shelter, as the caves did for David as he fled from Saul. But like so many other analogies, they pale in comparison to the absolute strength and refuge that we have in God. He alone cannot be harmed by weather or time or man. Jesus passed through the fire of bearing our sin and going into death, only to become the ultimate victor of sin and death and hell. (I Corinthians 15)

When it all comes down to the ultimate safety…I trust in that Rock that is higher than I am, stronger and more sure than all the rocky places we seem to trust. Who do you trust?

Psalm 61:1-3

61 Hear my cry, O God;
Give heed to my prayer.
From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint;
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For You have been a refuge for me,
A tower of strength against the enemy.

balance

battleship

he hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock

Psalm 19:13-14

13 Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins;
Let them not rule over me;
Then I will be blameless,
And I shall be acquitted of great transgression.
14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.

sunrise

shadows creeping down as the sun rises

seeing the light of day

Psalm 18:1-3

18 “I love You, O Lord, my strength.”
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
And I am saved from my enemies.

He’s the Lily of the Valley

Psalm 62

62 My soul waits in silence for God only;
From Him is my salvation.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
My stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken.

My soul, wait in silence for God only,
For my hope is from Him.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
My stronghold; I shall not be shaken.
On God my salvation and my glory rest;
The rock of my strength, my refuge is in God.
Trust in Him at all times, O people;
Pour out your heart before Him;
God is a refuge for us. Selah.

A mighty fortress is our God

Ugly Treasures

I like to dabble in photography, and I take thousands of pictures, hoping to take that perfect one. Some are special. Some are blurry. Some are awful.

But honestly, I have a really hard time deleting my images. They are kind of like those boxes of mementos that I keep–treasures that somehow are too precious to discard but for some reason are still stuck in a box rather than out on display.

This week, my little buddy Froglegs became so excited and animated because he saw this very large yellow butterfly.

“Hurry, Nana! Get your camera! Come see this butterfly. It’s HUGE!!!”

I obviously have my little buddies well-trained at identifying those picture-worthy subjects. I hurried in to get my camera, hoping not to miss it.

It was a very windy day, and the poor butterfly was really flexing his muscles to hang onto the butterfly bush. (That bush is a topic for another blog post.) I snapped several pictures, but the wind was interfering with my shots.

And then, my battery died. Great. Just great.

Later in the day, I uploaded the photos to my computer to check them out. I felt a mixture of semi-satisfaction and disappointment. I don’t believe a single one of them was clear that didn’t also feature a weed, the neighbor’s trash can, her newspaper or the brand-new asphalt on the road. It didn’t look like any of them were frame-worthy.

Bummed would be an understatement.

I left the photos alone and did nothing. I moped a little. It had been a somewhat unpleasant day and I had a lot of mulling over going on. I had so many thoughts running through my head, and honestly, blurred pictures didn’t stack up too high on my list of significant failures.

But…as the day dragged on, the pictures became an escape for me. I was bound and determined to turn them into something semi-beautiful. After all, it was a gorgeous yellow swallowtail, the loveliest shade of yellow. It was stunning, to be honest.

So I messed around with my Canon photo editing software. I don’t even have Photoshop. As I experimented, God started bringing so many thoughts and verses to mind. And a-tweaking I went.

The mundane and ordinary became sublime. When looking at it through a different set of “eyes” I could see beyond the failures of the photos. Just take a look…

Can you even see the asphalt? Do you see the weeds? Or the garbage can and newspaper?

No. And you know what? These photos are a great example of what the blood of Jesus does to us…God does not see us as those miserable creatures bound by sin. We are not hopeless, ugly wretches.

We are His treasures. Loved and beautiful. Full of life and hope. When we are able to look at our lives through God’s filter of redemption and unconditional love, we can see ourselves as He sees us.

I pray that today, you will see yourself through His eyes of forgiveness and redemption.