Saturday, February 19, 2011

Saying Goodbye to Blogging

My dear friends,

After much thought and prayer over a long period of time, and a tried force continuation of blogging, I've come to the conclusion that at this point in time, blogging is not what the Lord is calling me to do.

Thanks for sticking with me. Perhaps one day far down the road I may return to this blog, but right now I look forward to what He does have in store for me. It was a drive down a long country road, the sun in its evening descent, the beaming gold of the earth against the brilliant blue of the sky, and those rolling hills that brought upon this final meditation and conversation with our Lord. Only confirming what He has been pressing upon my heart for months now:

Be present. I need to be present to the world in front of me. And that world is Iowa, is Des Moines, is my husband, are the new people we meet each day. Too much time is spent online, wasting time, thinking of posts to write, being virtual. Living, giving, loving needs to take place right here and right now. This is the ministry He is calling to me now. This is where my heart, my hands, my eyes, and my mind needs to be. And to fully immerse myself in that, to be fully present, to LIVE in the real, the tangible I need to leave blogging. But it's not really about leaving blogging, or spending less time on Facebook, or less time reading columns, articles, other blogs etc. It's all about serving Him in His people that I can meet face to face each day. It's living out the belief that the Lord has specifically brought me to Iowa for a reason, and that reason is to get to know the people here, to love the people here, to listen to the people here, to care for the people here... and I'm SO excited.

So, thank you for coming along this short journey with me. Perhaps we'll meet again down the road...



Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Overflowing Goodness

Hey! And we're back in action! My husband and I took an extended visit to see family this past Christmas season and didn't get back until well into the first week of January. It's been a hubbub of activity at home as we returned to our normal weekly schedule - which is not normal at all! :)

God in His infinite wisdom (for it must be) has been blessing us again and again and again this month. There is so much to share! I won't declare all in this moment, but prepare your ears (or, ahem, eyes) for an array of overflowing goodness in these next upcoming posts.

Until then, God bless you and take care!

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Word on Femininity

The following is a blog post I wrote for 1251: Queen of All Hearts. A blog devoted to sharing how a few women dress modestly. Enjoy!

How many of us would love to be described by others as feminine… enchanting… ravishing… captivating… charming… and alluring? Now, how many of us know of a woman in our life that fits these adjectives? Few come to my mind in the full sense of the word, and most have lived their lives and are now gone from this world. What does this say to us, except that it is a rarity to find a woman who enchants those around her with grace, compassion, humble listening, and a feminine nature.

Wait, wasn’t this supposed to be a blog about clothing?!

Right. Right. But think of those words again: feminine… enchanting… ravishing… captivating… charming… and alluring. Do these words come to mind when you think of dressing modestly?

Every woman desires to be beautiful, and each one of us would, I daresay, blush with embarrassment (albeit be more than pleased) if a dashingly handsome man complimented us with, “You look quite ravishing today, my lady.” But, alas! We live in the 21st century when most chivalry and respect has disappeared from common society… as has modesty. However, there still remains a place for modesty. And this is where it all begins…

Of all the women you may have imagined at the beginning of this post, I will bet that most of them dressed very modestly. Now, when you look up “modest” in the dictionary, you certainly won’t find those adjectives, but the true definition of modesty is found in those women. How is this so? Because -when a woman truly knows her dignity, knows of her deep and indispensable value to humankind, when she knows of her unique gifts, those of being a woman and being utterly irreplaceable, she will not only carve her way into the world with the love, light, and service she possesses, but she will take utmost care in communicating this inner beauty on her outside.

And so it is with you and I.

It is only until we understand our indispensable value - being a woman, and yes, being you, that we will begin to cultivate those virtues, serving those around us, and yes, dressing to reflect that beauty we each hold inside of us.

Sometimes I relate it to giving a gift to another, for that is what a woman is; she is truly a gift to humanity, one of the greatest treasures - each one a crown of creation. Now, picture a gift. This gift is a unique item, so unique in fact that no other exists of its kind on the planet. It is rare, and it is expensive. It is so beautiful that before the giver placed it in the box to be wrapped, many oohed and aahed over its beauty, others were reduced to silent awe. But tucked away, with many layers of tissue paper and into a sturdy box it was laid. A soft silver wrapping was carefully placed around the box and silk ribbons of a deep ruby were tied to fix the wrapping in place. All finished, it certainly was magnificent to behold, but still not anywhere near the beauty which remained tucked deep inside. It was ready to be given, but first another present needed to be wrapped. This one also of inestimable value, but quite different and unique in its own way. It also received the applaud and reverence of those who saw it before it was wrapped. However, this one was not done so carefully. Instead, it was placed in an old, beat up box with no tissue paper. The paper used to wrap the box wasn’t large enough to cover the whole package, and hastily it was done. In the end, no one would have guessed the beauty which it beheld. And they certainly didn’t. Each gift was given out, and each gift received the tidings itself communicated. I’m sure you know where this story is going by now… but how do you suppose the first gift was treated? Great excitement and intense curiosity inexplicably followed its receiving. For, if the gift looks this marvelous and splendid from the outside, the inside is sure to be a treasure. Unfortunately, the second gift fared much worse. Tossed to the side, due to its lack of interest, this gift was never opened.

And so it is - again - with you and I.

We hold immense power. Each and every day we send a message to the world. This is not only a message that declares to others how we think of ourselves, but also one in which we tell them how to treat us. We do this in our poise, our speech, our actions, and yes, our dress.

It’s certainly not easy choosing what to wear when one knows of her great power, but with great power comes great responsibility. I challenge you to think about those women you thought of at the beginning of this post. Ponder their virtues and their dress. What made them so alluring (to men and women alike)? What made them so feminine? And, how can you work to attain those same virtues, in manner and in dress, so as to give yourself as a gift to others and to reflect that great dignity which has been given to you from above?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Awaiting the Coming of Our Savior

Blessed Second Week of Advent! This year I have a home to decorate for all seasons and holy days, and I am thoroughly enjoying the challenge of doing so... on a budget! My husband and I wanted to truly live out this season of Advent and we knew that if we decorated too early for Christmas the season of Advent wouldn't penetrate our hearts. Recognizing that the Church created seasons for a reason, we have tried our best to immerse our senses, minds, and hearts into this time of preparation.

Above you can see I did a bit of decorating. Thanks to Charlotte's blog, Waltzing Matilda, I was given some great ideas to help us visually celebrate the season. This season we're focussing on the virtue of patience - but I bet you could've figured that out! Underneath it reads, "We wait in joyful hope." On the left is our Jesse Tree which we started on the First Sunday of Advent, although some Jesse trees begin on December 1st. There is just something about a lit tree that helps a home feel warmer and cozier. I come from a family that traditionally put up the Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving. Doing a Jesse Tree has helped me focus on the season of Advent while still having the warmth and glow a Christmas tree gives to a home. Lastly, I put up an empty stable and manger, and cut out a silhouette of Mary and Joseph traveling using cardstock (this was also an idea from the Waltzing Matilda blog). This was a very tough project. I am still not completely satisfied as Mary is falling back a bit even after using some support beams (aka popsicle sticks). I do love the look of the silhouette and it certainly is appropriate for Advent.

I spent this second Advent Sunday making pretzel wreaths and chocolate chip cookies for our church's youth group which is in a half hour. We have yet to grab some dinner beforehand, so I need to fly! Peace and blessings to you and yours during this season of Advent!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Old Furniture - New Story

Many of you are aware that we were gifted almost all of the furniture we currently have in our home. Indeed, the only furniture we actually bought for ourselves were our two bookshelves of which we were in desperate need. And, even these we decided to buy fresh from the carpenter. We decided to sand and stain them ourselves and save about $300 in the process. Did we have any idea what we were getting ourselves into? Nope! Did we know it was going to be a lot of work? Yep! Would I want to do it again? Nope! But would I? Was it worth it? Most certainly!

These bookshelves are the result of many, many hours of sweat and shivers (it was very cold outside!). Our apartment neighbors couldn't believe that we were bringing out more furniture (we had just finished our dresser and chest of drawers) as it was on the verge of November. The days and nights were getting steadily colder, and we began having problems with the overcoat starting to freeze and solidify. We had just about had it with these shelves, when we finished! Casey and I both agree that we will treasure these shelves because of all the work we put into them. On top of that, we dipped our hands into a new trade of sorts, and learned a whole bunch in the process.

Here are the results of our labors. Aren't they beautiful? I think they do the job quite nicely.

Prior to working on these shelves we decided to strip, sand, and restain some of the furniture that was handed down to us. One of these pieces was my old dresser. I've had it since my grandma gave it to me as a gift from her antique shop. It was originally painted white with purple lilacs and green leaves. I'm kicking myself now that I didn't take a photo of it before we stripped it. While I liked the paint job in my younger years, I couldn't very well see Casey thinking it was beautiful, too. Plus, it didn't go with our bedroom scheme. So, here's the "before" photo after having stripped it:

Here is what it looks like today. All stained and working as a table for our sacred space:

Lastly - this is my favorite piece! My grandpa gave me a chest of drawers that was originally my Great Grandma Grace's. The story goes that her father made a chest of drawers for each of his daughters. Originally, it was stained a dark mahogany, but after years of use, it had inherited this color:

I personally liked the color, but it didn't go with any of our other furniture. Plus, I wanted to restore it to its original beauty. This was my labor of love. This was my favorite piece to do. It must have had about four layers of paint - white, yellow, green, gold, I counted my way through as I stripped it all off. In the dozens upon dozens of hours I spent on this chest I thought often of my great great grandpa. If he were here, would he be pleased that I was trying to restore it? How many hours had he spent making it? I imagined him carving and cutting the pieces of wood. It's a very intricate piece. What a treasure I have! Finally, after many layers of Citristrip, and sanding it came to look like this:

And in the end, we stained it the same color as the rest of the furniture, and back to its original stain. The knobs are the same, except they were spray painted silver. They are a temporary fix until we buy new knobs - I just need to decide what will look best with the stain. Any ideas??? I'm thinking something dark...

These projects took up most of September and October, and I am so grateful that they are finished! It's time for this furniture to begin their new story as part of our family.

Now I can snuggle up inside our home. It's on to making Christmas gifts, dusting off the keyboards (both computer and piano), and pulling out that sewing machine I have no idea how to operate. This winter is going to involve, oh, so much learning!

The Wind Blows... and Time Flies

My goodness! My last post was written in September! Needless to say, this autumn has been chock full of activities, RE classes, settling in, NT meetings, open gyms, dinners with new friends, Good Shepherd certification, an awesome Catholic conference, hearing Fr. Riccardo speak, and many, many cooking and baking adventures! I truly hope in the next few days and these weeks before Christmas to record and share all of these memories I now hold.

This certainly has been a season of growing. And while I do have a blog to use as an outlet to share these things, and some I SOOO want to share - they are too good not to share! - my natural tendency is to ponder all things in my heart. I could probably go days without talking and just become lost in the world in my head... this can be a virtue and a vice at times. Alas, I still (and will for many years, I estimate) work my way through knowing when to speak and share, and when to keep silent and ponder. Our Lady has been my best model for this. She spoke when necessary, but often we are told, "she pondered all these things in her heart" (Luke 2:51). O Mama Mary, guide me in my words and thoughts; teach me humility and boldness. Intercede that I may have a deeper love for all of His creation. Thank you for your wisdom. Amen.

Alright, my dear friends... the blog writing has resumed!

Friday, September 24, 2010

New home... New chairs

Laura, my mother-in-law, gave us a wonderful dining room set - complete with table and chairs, a bureau, and a china cabinet. They had been in her basement for some years, and the leather covering on the chair seats had gotten quite worn down over the years. I had decided that recovering them would be my first project once we settled in our new home.

Although I've never done such a thing before, or used a staple gun, I figured, how hard can it be? I set out for Hobby Lobby one day and perused their decorative fabric aisles. I knew in my head the colors I wanted to incorporate and the type of design, but I wasn't quite sure if they would have such a thing. Sometimes my ideas and what exists in reality can be far off. Fortunately, that was not the case this day. As soon as I saw it I knew that it would be the fabric for the chairs. I grabbed the roll (I say roll and not bolt because it wasn't with their other fabrics that they keep on bolts... but who knows, maybe this is still considered a bolt).

I had already measured the chair seats prior to this shopping trip, but even so I felt completely intimidated approaching the fabric counter. See, I know next to nothing about fabric - what type of fabric is best for what project, characteristics of each type of fabric, the best way to estimate yardage needed for a project - nope, I have zero smarts in this area... or maybe just lack of experience. Either way, I was hoping that whoever would help me would have some GREAT advice. What a blessing it was then, when the lady who did help me was not only kind, but didn't mind that I had no idea what I was doing. I explained the project and shared my measurements, we laughed together as we both tried to do the math, and then we finally decided where to cut the fabric. Not only was it a pleasant experience, but I learned more about how to use and estimate for my fabric usage!

So, three days and two staple guns later....

This is what I achieved!

The leather on these chairs had been loved A LOT.

The new fabric!

All the supplies I bought (minus scissors) with the wooden chair seat.

The final comparison. I think they turned out fantastically!

So, this project has really encouraged the other endeavors I have cooped up in my head. I would really like to make our apartment feel a bit more homey. With one task under my belt, I have already begun my next project (more like a series of projects): stripping and staining various pieces of furniture, namely, our dresser, a chest of drawers, and two bookshelves. This project will obviously take much more time and precision, but I'll be sure to put up some photos.

My last thought: Last year, as I was teaching, I was saddened of how little I was able to use my hands to do my work. Oh sure, writing on the whiteboard used them, and typing on my computer, but I have always been a kinesthetic learner. I love to play sports, rearrange spaces, to draw, sculpt, cook, bake, etc. I am finally so happy to have the opportunity to work with my hands. Praise God, and thank you!