Wednesday, May 1, 2019

My Easter Dress and Thoughts on Hobbies

 Sew. Let's be honest for a minute. My generation is really awesome in that we're passionate about making a living doing things we love. If you've got to deal with the stress of work either way, why not make sure it's something you'll really love most of the time?

However, the downside to this is that it really drains the hobbies out of our lives. When everything that you enjoy has to make you money, you stop doing it simply for the enjoyment. Older generations understood that "work is work, and play is play"; "work hard, play hard"! But my generation, by trying to make our work always feel like play, have instead lost the true benefit of play. 

Sewing has been a hobby of mine for at least half my life now, but over the last year or so I was feeling burnt out. Not getting any enjoyment out of sewing, and wondering what was wrong with me. Truthfully, I blame it on three things. 

First, fit issues. I'm really particular about how my clothes fit and feel, and for a while I couldn't make anything fit properly; that combined with a body changing due to health issues had me really down-in-the-dumps about doing any personal sewing. 

Second, limited range of projects. The majority of what I was sewing was historical items. Yes, I adore historical costuming, but man, sometimes it's really refreshing to make whatever item you want out of whatever fabric you want, without having to worry that a dozen stitch-nazis will pounce on you if you do it wrong and don't have a dissertation's worth of primary sources to prove you right. 

Lastly, the fact that sewing is now my business. Don't get me wrong; I enjoy sewing for other people, and I am incredibly humbled and grateful that people are willing to purchase my imperfect creations and wear them in public. But sewing stopped being something I did simply for fun, and became entirely related to output. How much could I get done in how little time, while still making sure every detail was perfect so no customer was unhappy? Yikes. Talk about a kill-joy. 

All of a sudden, it clicked in March, while I was listening to a delightful and amazing podcast called Love To Sew. In the first two episodes I listened to, the interviewees talked about how they sew simply because they enjoy the process of sewing. Yes, it's nice to have a finished garment to wear, and yes, it's nice if it fits well and you love it. But in the end, did you enjoy making it? Did you enjoy the way the fabric felt, or the way the collar seemed to magically go together, or the nicely finished details you created? That is why we sew. 

Think of it like cooking. There are people who cook simply because they must eat; they are equally as satisfied by sticking frozen chicken-fingers in the oven as they are by following a recipe to cook from scratch. And then there are people who cook because they love the process. Frozen meals are so unsatisfying, because they want to see the colorful veggies on their cutting board as they dice them with a sharp knife, and hear the sizzling while sauteing, and wait patiently for the bread to get just the perfect brown on it. Of course it's great that they get to eat when they're done, but the cooking was equally as great. 

And that's what I realized: I don't want to sew just to create things. I want to sew because I enjoy the process of sewing. Since then, I have re-started sewing as a way to relax in the evening, embraced my love of hand sewing, and feel inspired to learn the nitty-gritty of garment fitting so that I can make things I really want to wear. I've been amazed at the ways that skills from historic sewing are just as helpful in modern sewing. And now I want to sew All. The. Things. 

All that rambling to say - my Easter dress! This is one of the first creations to come out of my sewing epiphany, and I truly love it. It started out as a wild 1970's outfit that was just a bit too much; the whole tunic and maxi skirt thing - I couldn't bring myself to wear it. But that fabric! Silky, and colorful, and oh so floral!

My original plan was to simply take in the tunic to fit me better, slightly alter the collar, and use the maxi skirt for something else entirely. But the more I thought about it, I realized that first, I didn't really like the shape of the tunic, and second, if I had a dress I was unlikely to ever make another garment out of the same fabric. So, if I had to take the tunic apart anyways to bring it in, why not really change it up? 

Skirt pleats.
 I started by taking off the collar, sleeves, and zipper. Then, I cut the dress in half at the waistline. I cut two new skirt panels from the maxi skirt, and sewed those in between the two original skirt panels, to end up with a fuller, four-panel skirt. Then, I pleated that new skirt back onto the bodice. I then drastically cut down the neck and re-inserted the zipper (which, holy cow, was actually fun to sew by hand). Last, I was going to entirely change the sleeve shape, but ended up simply shortening them a bit; I really loved that the bell shape helped the dress retain a bit of its 70's vibe. 

The lovely zipper placket.
I did all of this alteration by hand. It was so enjoyable to spend an evening or a weekend curled up under a fuzzy blanket, listening to podcasts, and feeling my needle slide through the silky fabric. 

One of the things I'm post proud of is that I took the time to finish all my inside seams. For most of the seams I folded the allowance in towards itself and whip-stitched the edges, but I also used a pretty green seam binding for the waistline and neckline. The inside of the dress is almost as pretty as the outside! 

These finishes mean so much to me because up until recently, I was too impatient to sew that way! I've always been a "good-enough" kind of person, and I'm certainly not a perfectionist now, but I've truly come to appreciate a well-made item that shows the maker spent a little extra time on it  to get it just right. I'm so proud of how far I've come in my sewing practice!

This dress definitely taught me that I still have a lot to learn. It fit a lot more comfortably before the sleeves were put back on, and why do I always get a weird little gap at the front of my dress whenever I do an open neckline? But, it's still a garment that fits well and that I love to wear, especially because wearing it reminds me of the joy of making it!

Sew. If you've made it all the way to here, thank you. I hope, if nothing else, this inspires you to go do something you love, simply for the enjoyment of doing it!

Saturday, March 2, 2019

This Is Only A Season

In the last dark days of winter
When another storm comes ‘round
When all is dead and frozen
And snow fall covers the ground

It’s days like these that remind us
That life will spring anew
The sun, it warms and cheers us
Knowing the cold days are few

We do not doubt or worry
That spring will come at last
We simply wait with excitement
Till these wintry days are past


So why in life is it easy
To forget this lesson of seasons
We think we’ll be stuck here forever
And needlessly fret without reasons

Yet God is still working the while
He has not abandoned us here
Winter will spring into summer
And all the time He is near

So let’s hope for a warmer tomorrow
As the sun shines on our face
But even so, just remember
Today is a pleasant place

Monday, February 4, 2019

What I'm Learning About Trust

Trust is a funny thing, isn't it? It's this grand idea floating around in our heads and a perfect word to use in profound platitudes and motivational memes, but it is incredibly hard to figure out in *real life*. And for me, trust is terrifying.

I've known for a very long time that trust and fear were two of my biggest challenges in life, but I had never taken the time or had the clarity to figure out *why* they were so difficult. This year, thanks to my PowerSheets and God's revelation, I was able to pinpoint it and put it into words.

I am afraid of trusting other people and God because if I let go of control, they may not make choices that I hope/plan/expect, and their decisions may affect me negatively.

Wow. Even as I wrote this I cringed over my own need for "control". But, there it was; the truth about my fears. Yes, my trust issues really affect all my relationships, including with God.

You see, people always like to say things such as,

"Don't be afraid of that, just trust God!"
"Trust God and He'll protect you."
"Trust God and everything will be okay."

Yet that doesn't seem true. God doesn't always protect you from pain. He doesn't always stop bad things from happening. He doesn't always get rid of the difficulty.

Which really is okay. It's not that I expect my life to be cushy, perfect, and pain free just because I'm a Christian. I know that's not promised to us, and in fact I know that God can use the pain and imperfection to make us more like Him. What I struggled with was this: if God isn't going to keep bad things from happening, then *what* am I supposed to trust Him *for*?

Well, in a moment of great frustration and confusion, God graciously led me to read Psalm 56, and verse 11 stood out to me as if it had turned into 3D and jumped off the page.

"In God have I put my trust; I will not be afraid of what man can do to me."

It's so simple, isn't it? I honestly felt like smacking my forehead and saying, "Duh, Allison, why haven't you figured this out before now?" Well, God used so many challenging circumstances from last year to bring me to a point of understanding this verse for what felt like the first time.

This is verse is not saying, "I won't be afraid of bad things, because I trust God will stop them." Rather, "Yes, bad things WILL happen; but, I won't be afraid of the bad things happening, because I trust that God will give me His grace and strength in the midst of that bad thing." Wow; as soon as I was able to accept that the bad things would happen, I was able to begin moving past my fear of them.

You know what's so cool about many of the verses that talk about trusting God, especially in Psalms? They're in reference to battles. God is referred to as a shield, a fortress, a strong tower, a place of refuge and rest (Psalm 33:19-22; Psalm 144:2-4; Proverbs 18:10-11). You know something else? Shield are useless if you're sitting safely at home in your fuzzy pajamas, drinking hot chocolate. A shield is only worth something when you're in the battle, arrows flying and swords slashing.

I find this so encouraging because life often feels like a battle to me. A battle against my own flesh and sinful tendencies, against fear, discouragement, jealousy, discontentment, selfishness, and so much more. And that's OKAY! The battle WILL happen, but God is my shield!

I believe that a vivid imagination is a gift from God, and it has certainly helped me to understand this idea more clearly. I imagine myself as a warrior in the middle of a heated battled. I imagine that standing on a battlefield with just a shield to protect you from arrows flying all around is not very comfortable, even if none of the arrows hit you. I imagine that defending a fortress is hard, sweaty, tiresome work, even if the enemy never breaks through the gate or scales the wall. I imagine that retreating from the front lines back to a place of safety and rest requires a lot of alertness and some skillful maneuvering.

I guess what I'm getting at is that not only will the battle happen, but it may not be comfortable. The bad things will come, and even if we *are* trusting God, it may still hurt and feel really hard. But that doesn't mean trusting God is not working or not worth it. 

Let me tell you, this truth has revolutionized my year, and it's only February 4th! Because I can accept that bad things will happen and that people may make choices that I don't want or that affect me negatively,  I can use the shield of trust as it's meant to be used. Ultimately, my trust is in God, to be my provider, my friend, my encouragement, my help, my strength, so I no longer have to fear that other people won't be those things for me. Trusting God first and foremost has freed me to trust other people more willingly, because I know God's grace and strength will be there even if those people disappoint me. 

One of the ways this has been most apparent to me this month is in finances. When "they" say that finances are one of the biggest causes of conflict in marriage, "they" weren't kidding. When two people who have different views on how money should be handled suddenly have to share their money, there's bound to be issues. Now, I'm incredibly thankful that Stephen and I have been able to communicate well and work through these things, but we are still different people with different opinions.

I am so blessed and amazed by how much peace I felt about our finances in January, one of our lowest-income months, and truly trusting God has made all the difference! Normally, I would have seriously stressed about not having enough money for bills, and freaked out any time Stephen made a choice with our money that I wouldn't have, and even foolishly felt like Stephen didn't really care about us or our financial future. Instead, I have been grateful to have enough money to pay the bills, and have seen the reasoning and careful thought Stephen puts into his choices, and felt confident that Stephen does care about us and our money. Has it been a perfect month? No. Have I still felt the fear and worry at times? Yes. Have I spent a lot of time in prayer over it? Yes. 

And that is exactly the point. Finances and bills and money issues *will* always be there. But God will also always be there, shielding me with His grace. He is my provider, even if I do have to walk through a bad or difficult time in our finances. And I am SO grateful for that. 

Truthfully, even writing this post is requiring me to face fears and practice trust. Trusting that my worth is found in God, even if this causes someone to have a lessor opinion of me. Trusting that I have something valuable to say, that God can use my experiences and my imperfect words to encourage others. 

And I hope that's what this does for you. I am excited (and kind of terrified =P ) to continue learning about trust this year; I know that it will require me to walk through many more challenges, that I have certainly not figured it all out yet, and that it is only by God's grace I have learned as much as I have. But I hope this helps you to practice trusting God through whatever difficult circumstance you're dealing with, and that we can encourage each other even as we stand in the midst of the battle.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Dear Liesel Marie

Dear Liesel Marie, 

     Happy Due Date, my darling. 

Part of me can't believe that you are not inside me and I will never hold you in my arms. The other part of me can't imagine what it would be like to have a tiny infant right now, to be responsible for raising a little human. 

But let me back up and tell you how I got to this point. 

You came to us on April 1st of this year; at least, that's when we found out about you. The awkward mix this year of Easter and April Fool's day seems appropriate for how we felt - was this a bad prank or a gift of new life?

The weeks leading up to that pregnancy test were full of health issues, car issues, busyness at work, and suppressing panic at the thought of being pregnant. Truthfully, we were trying not to have kids; but, no method of birth control is 100% effective, and so you came. 

I'll be honest - as soon as I saw that positive sign on the pregnancy test, I felt a huge weight of fear fall on me. "We're not ready yet!" kept pounding through my head. As your dad and I sat on the couch overcome by shock and fear, I thought, "This isn't how it's supposed to be!" The arrival of our first child should be a time full of joy and excitement, not tears and uncertainty. 

That first day or two were really difficult for both of us. My mind kept running in circles, trying to process this new life. How was this going to work out? We didn't have enough money, I was working three jobs, our apartment was really tiny, we weren't ready yet! I was afraid of others finding out; it was as if I could hear their voices loud and clear - 

"How could you make such a stupid mistake?"
"There is such a thing as birth control, you know."
"You guys aren't prepared for this!"
"You've only been married 7 months!"

Abortion was never an option for us, but I'll admit that I can now understand why to some, it might seem like a good option at the time. I am SO thankful for the way that your dad and I came together during this time, and for the support of my sister as I shared all my fears and doubts with her. But, if a woman is faced with a surprise pregnancy, and her family won't support her, or her boyfriend is angry about it, or she's working several jobs just to make ends meet, I can better understand how our minds would make it feel like the best option is to just get rid of the "problem" and make everything go back to normal. But, it makes me so sad that any woman would ever choose that option. So, thank you for helping me to learn a new compassion and grace for others. 

Well, as the week went on and we talked about you, and prayed about you, and our minds settled, we grew more and more excited. Yes, it was still kind of scary, but somehow we'd work it out and make it through, and, we had a child!

All along, I had been having odd cramps and back pain, along with other symptoms. That week, Friday afternoon, something changed. I remember thinking, "Oh, I feel normal again!" I still think with regret about how it seemed like a good thing to me at the time, but I couldn't have known. That night, I had the worst back pain I can ever remember, and the next day, Saturday, April 7th, we lost you. 

It's ironic - they say you don't know what you've got til it's gone. That was certainly true with you. Although my excitement had been growing over the week, it wasn't until the moment I saw the blood and felt what was happening that I truly knew just how much I wanted you. 

Miscarriages are cruel. It's the worst period, worst flu, and worst emotional trauma you've ever had, all rolled into one terrible bundle. 

The next few weeks were some of the most difficult I've ever experienced. I felt so guilty - what if it was my fault? Is it because I didn't want you at first? Is there something I did wrong to cause it? My body must be screwed up. 

I felt angry at God. Why did You allow this? Where are You? I felt like a little child, sitting on the floor and building a block tower. Just one week ago, God had come along and knocked down my tower with the news of a baby. And then, just as I had picked up the spilled blocks and starting building again, He came over and knocked the tower down all over again. Like a little child, I was sitting on the floor crying, angry, confused, and surrounded by mess. 

It took a while. It took lots of ugly cries, and lots of shouting at God, and lots of reading Scripture, and lots of declaring the truth even when it seemed false. But eventually, things changed. Something a dear lady at church shared was the turning point for me. She showed a video of a little girl throwing her arms into the air and shouting "Daddy!" with such joy. She used this as an illustration for worship, and talked about how some of the times she needed to worship God the most were the times when she felt like it the least. I realized that like the child on the floor, surrounded by mess and confusion and tears, if I would just throw my arms up and say "Daddy, hold me!" that He was waiting to pick me up, hold me tight, wipe away my tears, and show me His plan. 

That was the first time I truly surrendered you to God, and let me say, He showed up. I experienced Him in a way that was so much more real than I ever could have imagined. 

Over the next several months, I continued to heal. I am so thankful for the way God used you in my life, and in my relationship with your dad, and how He taught me new grace, new compassion, and a new reliance on Him. 

A month or two after, we decided that we wanted to name you. Your dad and I wanted to celebrate your life, not just remember the loss. After much searching on my part, your name came together in a more perfect way than I could have planned. The name Liesel Marie means "In the pain of this wished for child, God has been my satisfaction." It truly sums up that time.

Every month, when my cycle came around, I would relive the loss, guilt, and pain. It gave me a new burden for women who want to or have chosen abortion. I was feeling so hurt and guilty about something which I had no control over; I couldn't even imagine what those women must feel knowing that they choose to kill their child. So again, thank you for teaching me that compassion.

This month, the month you would have been born, has been especially difficult. Many times, I have literally felt empty inside, like there's a hole in me. Once again, I have had to surrender you to God, being thankful that you are with Him, and trusting in His plan. 

As I look back over the last nine months, I am incredibly humbled and grateful for the ways in which your unexpected life and loss have allowed me to connect with, encourage, and be encouraged by other women. I pray that I can continue to reach others and bring glory to God through my experience, and know that this time has not been in vain. 

And so, my dear Liesel Marie, you may have been with us for only a few short weeks, but you had a grand impact on our lives. I may never hold you in my arms on this earth, but I look forward with joy to the hope I have of meeting you in Heaven. 

I love you, 
     -your Mama

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

For His Mercy Endures Forever - Write The Word

Today's main text is Psalm 136:1-12, with the rest of the passage to be copied out tomorrow.

O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good: 
for his mercy endureth forever. 
O give thanks unto the God of gods: 
for his mercy endureth forever. 
O give thanks unto the Lord of lords: 
for his mercy endureth forever. 
To him who alone doeth great wonders: 
for his mercy endureth forever. 
To him that by wisdom made the heavens: 
for his mercy endureth forever. 
To him that stretched out the earth above the waters: 
for his mercy endureth forever. 
To him that made great lights: 
for his mercy endureth forever: 
the sun to rule by day: 
for his mercy endureth forever: 
the moon and stars to rule by night:
for his mercy endureth forever. 
To him that smote Egypt in their first born: 
for his mercy endureth forever: 
and brought out Israel from among them: 
for his mercy endureth forever: 
with a strong hand and a stretched out arm: 
for his mercy endureth forever. 

Webster's Dictionary: Mercy
      - From the Latin merces "price paid for something, wages, reward" and the old French mercit or merci "kindness or pity shown to someone"
     - #1 A kind and gentle treatment of someone (as a wrongdoer or opponent) having no right to it. 
      -  #2 A blessing as an act of divine love.

      - Clemency: a mild or merciful disposition in the person having the power to punish.
      - Leniency: the repeated overlooking of mistakes by one not inclined to punish. 

     - But he, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not: yea, many a time turned he his anger away, and did not stir up all his wrath. For he remembered that they were but flesh; a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again. - Psalm 78:38-39

      - Be merciful until me, O LORD: for I cry unto thee daily. Rejoice the soul of thy servant: for unto thee, O LORD, do I lift up my soul. For thou, LORD, art good, and ready to forgive; and plentious in mercy unto all them that call upon thee. - Psalm 86:3-5

      - I will praise thee, O LORD my God, with all my heart: and I will glorify thy name for evermore. For great is they mercy toward me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell.  - Psalm 86:12-13

     - But thou, O LORD, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plentious in mercy and truth. O turn unto me, and have mercy upon me: give thy strength unto thy servant, and save the son of thine handmaid. - Psalm 86:15-16

      God has the power to punish, and He does at times, but that is not His first inclination. He is not waiting around for the first opportunity to punish us. No, instead, "many a time turned he his anger away". He repeatedly overlooks our mistakes, wrongdoing, and opposition of Him, and treats us with kindness and gentleness, because the price for our sin was already paid by Jesus. 

     That, as I see it, is the full definition of mercy; that the person showing mercy takes the price upon himself, and therefore can treat someone who doesn't deserve it with kindness and gentleness. Just as the Samaritan, who showed kindness and gentleness to a man who didn't deserve it, by paying the full price of his lodging and care himself. In such a way God shows mercy to us, taking all the cost of it upon Himself. Truly, His mercy endures forever.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Proverbs 31 - In Closing

I was kind of surprised this morning to find that I had come to the end of Proverbs 31 study. It's been such an on-going study that I hadn't realized how close I was getting to finishing. 

But, in closing, I wanted to say a few words to wrap it up. This list of seventeen attributes that I have created here are not meant to be a to-do list for us to cross off every day just for the sake of crossing off. Nor are they the benchmark for a "perfect Christian woman" or a way to measure our own righteousness or a recipe for a perfect life.

However, I do believe that these are things which we should be seeking after, praying for, and practicing in our lives. They are attributes which God will work in us and through us as He changes our heart to be more like His, and which show His character to a world desperately needing Christ. 

I pray that God has used this study to work in your life as I know He has done in mine. So many times, completely without planning on my part, whichever attribute I was studying that week spoke so clearly to something I was dealing with. 

I don't know what I'll study from here, or if I'll keep posting it on the blog, but may we all continue to seek to be like Christ and study His words.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Study of Proverbs 31 - Week #18 - Peaceful

"She is not afraid of the snow for her household..." v. 21

"..and she shall rejoice in time to come." v. 25

A godly woman is peaceful. Some versions of the Bible translate verse 25 as "she will rejoice without fear of the future." She doesn't spend her time worrying and fretting and afraid of the future. 

Webster's Dictionary - Peaceful: untroubled by conflict, agitation, or commotion

Webster's Dictionary - Unworried: not afflicted with mental distress or agitation

I appreciate Webster's definition of peaceful; it doesn't mean "to not experience conflict, etc.", but rather to be "to not be troubled by the conflict that we do experience."

1. Numbers 6:26 - the Lord gives peace
2. Deuteronomy 31:6-8 - do not be afraid, because God fights for you
3. Joshua 10:25 - " "
4. Psalm 3:5-6 - do not be afraid, for the Lord will sustain you
5. Psalm 4:8 - be at peace because the Lord takes care of you
6. Psalm 23:4 - fear no evil, for God is with you
7. Psalm 27:1-5 - who will we fear? The Lord is our strength
8. Psalm 29:11 - the Lord will bless with peace
9. Psalm 55:18 - He will deliver us into peace
10. Psalm 55:22 - cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you
11. Psalm 56:3-4, 11 - I will not fear for my trust is in the Lord
12. Psalm 85:8 - God will speak peace to His people
13. Psalm 91:1-6 - God is our refuge and fortress, so we do not need to fear
14. Psalm 112:7-8 - do not be afraid; trust in the Lord
15. Psalm 118:6 - I will not fear for the Lord is on my side
16. Psalm 119:165 - those who love God's law have great peace
17. Proverbs 3:5-6 - trust in the Lord, and He will guide you
18. Isaiah 26:3 - those who trust the Lord will be kept in perfect peace
19. Isaiah 26:12 - the Lord will make peace, and will work for us
20. Isaiah 41:10, 13 - fear not, the Lord will help you
21. Isaiah 43:1-5 - fear not; God has redeemed you and will be with you
22. Jeremiah 29:11 - God's plan is for our good
23. Joel 2:21-22 - do not be afraid; the Lord will do great things
24. Matthew 6:25-34 - you can not add to your life by worrying; God will care for you.
25. Luke 12:22-31 - " "
26. John 14:27 - God gives His peace to us
27. John 16:33 - we have peace in Jesus because He overcame the World
28. Romans 8:6 - focusing on spiritual things life and peace
29. Romans 14:17 - the kingdom of God is peace in the Holy Ghost
30. Romans 15:13 - we have peace through the hope from God and the Holy Ghost
31. Galations 5:22 - a fruit of the Spirit is peace
32. Philippians 4:6-7 - do not worry; but by prayer and thanksgiving let the peace of God keep you
33. 2 Thessalonians 3:16 - the Lord of peace Himself gives you peace
34. 1 Peter 5:6-8 - cast your cares on God because He cares for you

The characteristic of peace is very similar to the last topic of joy, in that true peace is not dependent on the circumstances around us or based on our own ability to plan for and control the future. True peace comes from the Lord. 

We do not need to fear our present situation or whatever the future brings, because God. God will guide us; He cares for us; He has redeemed us and has a good plan for us; He will do great things! He will fight for us, and sustain us, and give us strength; He is our refuge and He will deliver and keep us in peace. 

Fear is something I struggle with so much, and it constantly pushes me back to prayer, to cast my cares on Him. Some of my fears are simply irrational, but many of them are fears of unknown or unwanted situations. I'm continually learning that I can trust God, not because He will keep me from those hard situations, but because He will never leave me as I walk through them.