Fleece in the Grease

Fiber Art has captured my heart. Only a few years ago I was just learning to crochet my first dish cloth. The more I learned the more I wanted to know. I had Fiber Fever! Soon on my wish list was a Spinning Wheel and eventually I found myself in possession of a real, unwashed, stinky, trash embedded Fleece in the Grease! A friend who serves as a missionary in New Mexico graciously shipped it to me, right after shearing.

I was stunned by the state of this fleece. I truly thought I was prepared. I wasn’t. But, there it was, mine to process, so, there was nothing to do but begin. I would redeem it. I would wash it. I would transform it. At the end of the process I would use it for my purpose. After all, I had seen such a thing done before. Not with wool, but with a life, my life.

This fleece had been exposed to all the elements. It had weathered storms, rain, snow, grime and weeds. It had been unprotected, unsheltered, unwashed and was very unappealing. It needed to be introduced to some soap and water, but tenderly. You see we quickly learned that too much heat and agitation would ruin the potential of the wool turning it into a lump of matted mess that was unusable and valueless. We also learned that exposure to sunlight was very effective.

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Once washed properly it smelled and looked so much better. I saw the potential, there had been progress, but we weren’t done. We were far from done. Next was the picking and the carding. Picking was a bit unpleasant and honestly a little tedious. Even after a thorough washing there were seeds and briars and stuff you may not care to visualize embedded into the fibers. Tiny particles left unattended would later become irritants and imperfections in the created fabric. It was essential to remove every foreign object we could see, one pick at a time.

Wool carding has been being done for centuries and while there are carding machines available, I chose the traditional wooden carders. This part of the process took finesse and a little muscle. I was transfixed as I saw the fibers being pulled and straightened and put in order. I was shocked when occasionally after all my washing and picking to see a thorn or tiny piece of trash revealed as the fibers were being carded.

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After hand carding the fibers were gently formed into rolags. A rolag is simply a roll of carded (combed) fiber. It was clean, smelled better, looked better, impurities were removed and in fibers in order. Still, the process would continue.

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The fibers needed to be strengthened before they could be properly used to create yarn that would become a fabric that would become a garment. This was the greatest challenge of all. Applying proper tension, giving and resisting the feed, a smooth rhythm of the peddles and wheel would result in a strong yarn that could be crocheted, knitted or woven.

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Now, finally the fleece had reached a point where in the right hands its could become an object of beauty, of great use. A purpose could be revealed. A pattern could be established.

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I don’t know where you may be in this process. Perhaps you have yet to be redeemed. Perhaps you are just beginning to be washed. Perhaps you are picking and picking and picking. Perhaps you feel as if you are being raked over the sharp pins of a carder. Perhaps the life is spinning and twisting like a spinning wheel right now. Wherever you are in the process, don’t give up and quit. You’re in the hand of the Master Artist and He is creating something magnificent.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. (Philippians 1:6 NLT)

Dangerously Different

Having been born in the Deep South I have a heritage steeped in both immense pride and terrible shame. I was born in Louisiana, lived in Texas and Georgia, graduated high school in Mississippi. I have close family in Arkansas and am raising a family in Alabama – I get it, I truly do. I get what our unique culture offers, good and bad. I have experienced it.

My friend and pastor often says that a man with an experience is never at the mercy of a man with an argument. This is so true. I have experienced a unique and sometimes dangerously different way of life that can’t be argued away. It doesn’t matter one bit if you refuse to agree or refuse to see, my experience will not yield to your arguments.

Twenty years ago I would have just turned thirty and have been feeling quite grown up with some strong opinions on the ways of life, the ways of the world. Had you asked me about racism I would have expressed that it was a terrible, unacceptable, shameful part of our past. I was convinced. I would have tried to convince you. That was my experience as a white, middle class woman of the Deep South.

Then, our life changed drastically when we became foster parents. Suddenly my experiences were changing because a whole new ‘world’ within the world I thought I knew so well was revealed to me. I began to see clearly that racism was most certainly not a thing of the past and even within the hearts of people who claimed to harbor no racism, there were invisible but firm lines drawn in the proverbial sand of what was acceptable and not acceptable.

It was one thing to bring a child of a different skin color into our home temporarily as a foster child. It was quite another to consider adopting that same child and making them a permanent part of the family. It was one thing to allow their toddler daughter to be a playmate to our dark skinned son, quite another to think they might ever date.

Little by little, experience by experience, everything changed, especially me. Some of the people we loved, people we respected, people we considered friends took a stand and they stood on the other side of one of those invisible but firm lines of what was to be tolerated and what wasn’t.

Jesse came to us as a two-week old, 5lb, premie baby and absolutely stole my heart at first glance. To this day, he is the only baby I’ve ever gone into a hospital nursery and worn a paper gown to hold. His skin was very dark and his head full of hair. He was the most beautiful child I had ever beheld as they placed him in my eager and empty arms. It never even crossed my mind that the whole world wouldn’t be as thrilled, as entranced as I was. I would soon learn differently.

So, I was a bit blindsided by some of the reactions towards this light skinned momma and dark skinned baby. There were times of bold questions, hostile glares, snide remarks and rude comments. Surely these were just the few, the exceptions, the ignorant, was how I reasoned it all out.

At first I was hurt and humiliated. Then I became angry and offended. Some days I was more long suffering than others. Some days I was more scared than others. I was suddenly quite aware that to many, the love of a white momma for a black child was viewed as dangerously different.

When we found out we would be able to adopt Jesse (two and a half years later) I knew that we could not enter into such a commitment without a plan in place. Where we lived, how we educated, the church we attended, would all be decided with this thought in mind. Little did we know that Jesse would be the first of seven adoptions.

Twenty years later, things have changed a lot. There has been improvement. But, like a disease laden cockroach that scurries into a crack when the light comes on, racism is still there. Perhaps, as many point out, it always has and always will be. Perhaps. But, the fact that is has existed a long time, that others are doing it too, that ‘we aren’t the only ones wrong’ does NOT make it right. It does not mean we should ignore or defend it. If I see a roach in my kitchen I will not shrug my shoulders and explain to my family that people in the north have roaches too. I will not justify that my neighbor has more roaches than me, so we aren’t so bad. I will address it, take measures to exterminate it and keep my family safe. I will turn on the light.

Yesterday, I took my seven children to the zoo and for the first time in a long time I was reminded of how some people view us. It was a trip down a memory lane that I honestly would rather avoid. One man dropped his hands to his side and openly gaped as my tall, man sized Jesse lovingly draped his long arm over my shoulder for a moment as we walked by. Another younger man actually sneered at me, making a point to make eye contact with me expressing his open disapproval as he passed us in the crowd. Others frowned as my son Josiah held hands with his fair skinned girlfriend. Some raised their eyebrows when my little ones called me momma. I ignored these ignorant people and like a little momma hen, focused on my brood of children around me. Were they safe? Were they aware?

I breathed a sigh of relief. They were watching the animals. They were oblivious to the people who watched them disapprovingly. We saw some very dangerous creatures yesterday. Creatures that required cages and bars and precautions. Unfortunately, to many people our family, with a wide range of skin colors was the most dangerously different of all.

“Anyone who claims to live in God’s light and hates a brother or sister is still in the dark. It’s the person who loves brother and sister who dwells in God’s light and doesn’t block the light from others. But whoever hates is still in the dark, stumbles around in the dark, doesn’t know which end is up, blinded by the darkness.”(1 John 2:9-11 MSG)

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Surely Then it Multiplies

I have always had a heart for discipleship and felt it was an often overlooked practice of our modern church. We can sometimes get so caught up in the ‘big picture’ that we fail to notice the value of one life, one person, one individual.

Over a year ago I had a discussion with a dear friend concerning discipleship, what it looked like and how it worked. Around the same time I attended a Youth Conference with my teen sons where I heard a band sing a song that truly touched my heart and inspired me to begin to disciple on purpose. Below is the link.

http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?sns=fb&v=tmI_kfL01CE&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DtmI_kfL01CE%26sns%3Dfb

The lyrics intrigued me so much and even more so when the story behind the song was told. You can read that at this link.

http://leelandonline.com/blog/2011/11/28/what-is-the-great-awakening-the-great-awakening.html

I was inspired! I went back to my friend and offered to start a discipleship group with just a few ladies. At our first meeting, I read them this poem by Lawrence Tribble that he had written in the early 1700’s and that Leeland had put to music. We were all inspired.

“One man wakes, awakens another
Second one wakes his next door brother
Three awake can rouse a town
And turn the whole place upside down
Many awake will cause such a fuss
It finally awakes all of us
One man wakes with dawn in his eyes
Surely then it multiplies
Surely then it multiplies”

We began to study and learn and pray and CHANGE. We became hungry for the things of God with a new appetite. We were being awakened anew.

I have continued to disciple individuals and am more convinced than ever that this is one of the most impacting, powerful, life changing and ultimately world changing things that I can do.

But the word of God grew and multiplied. (Acts 12:24 KJV

Painting with Words

Write it down, you won’t regret it. Record your thoughts and ramblings, your worries and celebrations. Pour out your emotions into words that paint a picture. Even if you are not a writer, it does the heart good.

I discovered this from my journal from two years ago. I can still see it. I’m so glad I wrote it down.

Earlier a memory was etched into my brain that I will cherish forever. We had just walked outside and we headed to the open goat field so the dogs could run when an impromptu shower burst forth from the clouds pouring giant size rain drops upon our heads.

The girls darted into the barn where they were preparing to milk and I huddled under a leafy tree for cover.
The five boys had been running in the field and at first stood still as they taunted the rain, daring it to try harder. The rain accepted their challenge and they began to whoop and holler and yell and jump in the air and RUN!!

They burst upon the scene with the bright green grass and blue sky as their background. They were each wearing vibrant colored shirts of orange, yellow, red, purple and green.

What I beheld looked as if a rainbow had burst into boys! My own heart neatly burst with love, pride and thankfulness as I considered how empty and aching my arms had once been.

Now, by God’s grace and the miracle of adoption my heart, life, home and arms are full. As a matter of fact, my cup is overflowing and I’m sipping from my saucer.

He gives the childless woman a family, making her a happy mother. Praise the Lord ! (Psalms 113:9 NLT)

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Tomorrow (it’s only a day a way)

“Oh, I can’t think about this now! I’ll go crazy if I do! I’ll think about it tomorrow.” Scarlett O’hara’s famous words from _Gone With the Wind_ have been on my mind today.

Like her, I’ve been facing a chaotic season for a few months (perhaps a few years) and I have too often simply put out of my thoughts that which I could see no solution for or had no time for.

I feel like someone who has unintentionally over-extended their credit lines due to the hectic pace of life that delivers one unexpected crisis after another. Then, suddenly, just about the time they catch their breath, they realize, too late, what a mess they are in.

This is much further reaching than a matter of finances. We can over-extend in every aspect of life and ignore reasonable limitations until we are nearly bankrupt. Suddenly, after becoming so use to the great juggling routine, we come to a stark realization. All those things we put off until tomorrow are before us demanding attention. Tomorrow has arrived and is expecting to be seen about.

How have you over-extended. Time? Energy? Emotionally?
What price was required payment? Spiritual distress? Broken relationships? Unhealthy bodies?

This is my favorite scripture concerning ‘tomorrow’. So much wisdom.

“Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.” (James 4:13, 14 NLT)

Sure, we need to think ahead and make our plans. But, while doing so, keep in mind, tomorrow will come sooner than you think. It’s only a day away.

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Ponder This

I am a ponderer. I record many of my ponderings here on this blog. What does it mean to ponder?

To Ponder means…
To weigh in the mind with thoroughness and care.

I like that definition. Yes, to ponder is to weigh in the mind. This is a good thing. A very good thing in my opinion.

I’m thinking that more pondering might result in less regrets, fewer thoughtless words, more intentional living. This is exactly what I desire for my life.

While we don’t want to lose spontaneity and flexibility, there are so many times we could save ourselves (and those around us) a great deal of grief by pondering a bit before we take an action or blurt out words; even true or well intentioned words. We should weigh carefully what the results may be.

In the following Scripture Mary has been a participant and first hand witness of marvelous occurrences! Perhaps she said what others sometimes say in awe-inspiring moments. “There are no words.” Perhaps it was all so mind-boggling that she could not share in the natural what was super-natural.

“But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” Luke 2:19

In this day of social media it is so easy to spew out your words before you’ve tasted their flavor and tested their value. A hasty comment, a reply that is scathing, a status that sends a poison arrow in someone’s direction who has offended you (without names of course), can cause unnecessary hurt, drama and conflict.

Even hastily sharing the most wonderful news can result in hurt feelings and offenses. Some things are meant to be treasured and pondered for a while.

“Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure.” Proverbs 4:26

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Beauty Counts

Early morning will almost always find me with a good cup of coffee and a few excellent books in addition to my Bible for personal devotion time. It is how I start my day. It is how I survive my day.

Two of my favorites to read and glean from are Oswald Chambers and C.S. Lewis. I’ve read their writings for so long that I actually feel akin to them. Perhaps spiritually they are like wise great uncles who imparts bits and pieces into your life as you grow. They’ve certainly given me many thoughts to think.

So, today I was reading a portion of a letter that C.S. Lewis wrote concerning religious practices, their purpose and necessity. One thing he mentioned was the beauty. Religious practices can add beauty to our faith. (My words, not his). As I pondered what he had written, I made a note in the margin. ‘Beauty Counts’ was my note. And it does.

There is an idiom that says ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’. While I understand the meaning behind the words, I don’t quite agree. You see, I have gone to great lengths to teach my children that beautiful is still beautiful whether it is properly recognized or cherished.

Take my girls. For the first 6&7 years of their life they were not beheld as beautiful by those around them. Those people were blind to their beauty. It wasn’t that the beauty did not exist. It was that the beholders could not (or chose not) to see it.

Perhaps a better phrase would be, “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder if the beholder is not blind to beauty.”

So, how does one become blind to beauty? How could so many people fail to behold the beauty that is right before them? Poor choices, broken thinking, warped perspectives, spiritual deprivation.

As for me, my attitude changes how I see everything. An attitude of gratitude gives me an insight into true beauty. With that thought in mind and the Scripture below to consider, I am so thankful for the beautiful inheritance I have received. Beauty counts. Indeed.

The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. (Psalms 16:6 ESV)

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