Friday, December 31, 2010

One Year Fading. Another Awakening.

 Almost a new year...
I actually created and published a completely different post to end this tired year, but it felt so cliché and impersonal so I scrapped it.
 Even though my off-line life is overflowing, sometimes my blog feels empty...or at least shallow. And what's the point of that? Why should I bother to blog if it's mechanical and, for the most part, meaningless? These are just my thoughts lately after reading about so many of my fellow blogger's journeys in the latest Artful Blogging magazine.
There are so many stories of unsure beginnings. Artists, who precariously stepped out into the world of blogging, with intentions of sharing their art, and instead found that sharing their hearts, as well,  opened up an entirely different world of freedom and creativity. How inspiring to read about a journey out of financial ruin or depression or any number of difficulties! In a lot of cases, they grew wings and now they're flying, because of the trial they came out of! How cool is that?! But it meant opening up and becoming vulnerable. Bottom line...just being real.  That's a scary thing.
Life isn't always pretty. It's not always as simple and lovely as the photos on our blogs depict.
And although I certainly don't want my blog to be a drag I think even in the midst of dark days there's opportunity for me to drop the facade (and my pride) and in the process, encourage someone else going through their own trial. If you've read previous posts, you know I've contemplated this before.
Enough contemplating. It's been a tough year and the new year, honestly may not start a lot easier for me, but I'm not without hope, I'm not alone and I'm pushing through. I sense God even stronger in the dark lately than I have on some of my brightest days. He's got my back. He's assured me of that.
So, I'm gonna try this post again.
It's been a crappy, wonderful year! We've had financial struggles, health struggles, family struggles, changes that have been good, but hard ones to make...And isn't that life? ...all wrapped up with the wonderful stuff? And I know God has good things in store for me in 2011. 
(Jer.29:11 ~For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.)
On that note I'll share words to a song by Sara Groves that pretty much sums it up for me perfectly. I hope  you have a blessed and safe start to the new year! 
As for me~ I'm looking forward to some take-out, maybe a glass of champagne and a quiet evening with the husband. How rare is that?! All three kids have plans with their youth (and college) groups from church. Now that's not a bad start to the new year, is it?
xx's ~Jen

Less Like Scars

It's been a hard year
But I'm climbing out of the rubble
These lessons are hard
Healing changes are subtle
But every day it's

Less like tearing, more like building
Less like captive, more like willing
Less like breakdown, more like surrender
Less like haunting, more like remember

And I feel you here
And you're picking up the pieces
Forever faithful
It seemed out of my hands, a bad situation
But you are able
And in your hands the pain and hurt
Look less like scars and more like

Less like a prison, more like my room
It's less like a casket, more like a womb
Less like dying, more like transcending
Less like fear, less like an ending

And I feel you here
And you're picking up the pieces
Forever faithful
It seemed out of my hands, a bad situation
But you are able
And in your hands the pain and hurt
Look less like scars

Just a little while ago
I couldn't feel the power or the hope
I couldn't cope, I couldn't feel a thing
Just a little while back
I was desperate, broken, laid out, hoping
You would come

And I need you
And I want you here
And I feel you

And I know you're here
And you're picking up the pieces
Forever faithful
It seemed out of my hands, a bad, bad situation
But you are able

And in your hands the pain and hurt
Look less like scars

And more like

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Wrapping it up

Well, the gifts have been made (or purchased), exchanged and unwrapped. I've dug out and dusted off my pre-holiday projects (which feels pretty good to get started on again).
 The Christmas decor still lingers, but in a week it will be packed snugly away for another year.
 But one thing that is still with me, and I'm afraid might be for months to come...
the food! 
Oh my, did I ever over indulge. 
We had our family Christmas party at my Brother and sister-in-law's new home this year. 
Doesn't her food look like art?!
At home we have an odd-gift-giving tradition with the kids. They make us laugh each year as we hang them on the tree and it's funny to watch others do a double take when they get their first glance at one. Here are a few...
Condensed Tomato Soup Can
Long Legged Moose
Scuba Santa

No so weird, but I love this guy. He was given to us from a newly-found friend, Darcy, and her family.

Clockwise from the top: Teddy in tub, a beaver (?), a toaster and I really don't know about the last one...he looks like a mix between a hamster and a bird.

This little monkey man looks like he's ready for a Christmas party. Check out his blingin' ring.

Fat bird. Little feet.

An armadillo.

And this guy belongs to my sister-in-law, Jill. Isn't he cute in his little hat and scarf? I had to share the story behind his skinny self. Her dad's been dealing with a lot of health issues and has recently had to go in for infusions that can take hours. He keeps his mind and hands busy by building all kinds of things with these little kits, which he then gives to children who are also undergoing treatments. Many times for cancer. What a great idea to get your mind off of your own troubles and put the focus on others.

Well, I'm off to prepare for the next round of holiday festivities (that being New Years , of course). Hope you're having a nice Christmas season with the family and are able to rest a bit now that the shopping part is over. Ahhhh....                                                                                                     XX's ~Jen

Friday, December 24, 2010

Need a simple Christmas hors d'oeuvre recipe?

Well, it's the big day for our family Christmas party! From great-grandma down to our youngest nephew, we'll fill my brother and sister-in-law's house and then fill ourselves with all sorts of yummy hors d'oeuvres. My heart always aches a little for my side of the family, too. with her living in So Cal and my parents in Southern Illinois. But I've grown to love the traditional Christmas Eve shin dig with my husband's family.
One of my family's personal favorite treats for any party, is also one of the most simple treats I've ever made! Works for me. They're called bacon wrapped dates, and they are...well, bacon, wrapped around a pitted date with a toothpick stuck through to hold it together. Yes, it's really that simple. Here's "the recipe":

Bacon Wrapped Dates:

You'll need:

A package of pitted dates
Bacon (preferably nitrate-free)
Shallow baking dish (deep enough to contain any grease run-off)

You can stuff the pitted dates with cheese or almonds if you'd like, but we like them un-stuffed. Now that you have every thing you need, go ahead and preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Cut your bacon in thirds (or in half if you'd like more bacon flavor. I usually do half a slice, myself), wrap the bacon around each date with the bacon seam facing down and place in shallow baking dish. Bake for approximately 15-20 minutes or until crispy, turning once. Drain the excess grease on a paper towel and voila! Super simple, huh?

Now they may not be the prettiest hors d'oeuvres at the party, and people may hear "dates" and wronkle their nose at you, but trust me!!! They'll be a total hit! They taste similar to sausage with pancake syrup. Yum!
 Hope you have a wonderful and safe Christmas Eve whatever you may be doing!
God bless you and your families!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Googled Christmas Inspiration

Just some winter inspiration I found by doing a bit of googling this morning. Oh, how I love technology at times like this, when I want to travel 'round the world to see how others are decorating their homes and wrapping their gifts for Christmas.
All pictures should link to their original sites. (This is where I'm not always so crazy 'bout technology.) 
Anyway, hope you enjoy and are inspired!
(This makes me want to find new things to wrap!)

Have a wonderfully blessed day! To my blogging friends over there in Europe- I hope you're safe and warm at home, or at least with family, and that the snowstorms let up a bit so you can venture out safely. You're in my prayers and thoughts! Looks as though it will definitely be a white one for you!
Much love!!! ~Jen

Monday, December 20, 2010

Glimpses of Christmas

My dining room table has become my craft space in the past few weeks. I don't want to spend all of my time before Christmas, preparing, wrapping and creating downstairs and away from the family.

I have my soaps, along with gifts, ribbons, paper, glitter etc...scattered all about the dining room! And, although I usually hate messes, I feel quite content with it tonight. I'm happy to smell the cinnamon candles and baked goods, to hear the kids laughing (and even arguing once in a while), to just be warm and cozy in my home, enjoying my family. Thank God for all of this chaos!

I hope you are enjoying your time preparing for the holidays as well.

  ...that you are cherishing those moments with family.

 (This is what the kids and I ended up doing with our origami stars!)

 (...another project that is in progress.

 And let me tell ya- the animals are diggin' all of the fun stuff to play with. All stuff they shouldn't be playing with...but try telling them that.

And isn't this an awesome little Christmas village?!
 My son made this for me, and when it was presented to me, I thanked him for this wonderful little "town"... He was quick to tell me it's a village.

Duh... Of course it's a village.

Even with all of the messes, endless lists and events, I hope your joy hasn't been buried under all of it. I hope you're enjoying all of the little moments that lead up to Christmas day.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Story of The Last Stanza

The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.

O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints’ and angels’ song.

When years of time shall pass away,
And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall,
When men, who here refuse to pray,
On rocks and hills and mountains call,
God’s love so sure, shall still endure,
All measureless and strong;
Redeeming grace to Adam’s race—
The saints’ and angels’ song.

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to

I love this song and recently I've been reading about the history behind many of today's most cherished hymns. When I ran across the history of this one, I had to share it, not to mention the words of the beautiful hymn itself.
The last stanza of this hymn was found penciled on the wall of a patient's room in a California asylum for the insane in 1917 after he had passed away.
This part of the song's history is amazing to me and I wish I knew more about this guy. Like, why was he there? Was he really insane or was he sick with an illness that caused depression or other mental anguish? He did pass away so that would make sense. Either way, how incredible that he would write about the love of God in such a time of distress...when the demons in his mind were probably trying to convince him of just the opposite. I see this as a deep love and trust in God even through a dark valley of Illness. (Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4)
Anyway, this writing of his was based on the Jewish poem, Hadamut, written by Meir Ben Isaac Nahorai, circa 1050. It was somewhat paraphrased by this mystery patient, but is still beautiful.
A pastor by the name of Fredrick M. Lehman, who somehow learned of these words on the wall and copied them down, was so moved by them that he penned two stanzas of his own one day on his breaks while at work, then added them to the poem segment. In a nutshell, this is how we came to have the Hymn we know today as The Love Of God.   What beautiful imagery this song holds! I hope it blesses you as much as it has me.
Have a good night friends ~Jen

Monday, December 13, 2010

Making Origami Christmas Ornaments

I've always loved working with paper. 
 Card making, decoupage, collage & mixed media. 
Even paper folding boxes and envelopes. 
...Stuff like that.
But origami? No, that never really crossed my mind. 
Whenever I heard the word 'origami'
...this is what came to mind.
 ...or this.
 ...or something mythological-like.

 Not that I didn't think they were cool. I've made a few with my 11 year old son. I just never would have thought of taking it up as some sort of hobby.
But while browsing for Christmas ornament ideas to make with the kids for an art lesson, I found that origami is where it's at! 
Look! I made these!
A spike ball (Video here.)

A Stellated Octahedron (Video here.)

A snowflake. (video here.)
I won't lie. They were a bit time-consuming, but I did the first two during a movie with the family and the snowflake was our art project for the day.
...And even tough the 14 year old daughter sighed, slouched and rolled her eyes upon first hearing of this paper-folding endeavor, she asked me tonight if we could find some more to do tomorrow. I love it.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Resting In Him

Closing eyes...breathing in...exhaling slowly... 
Opening my eyes and now and beginning the click-clicking on the keyboard.
Ahhh, it's quiet. Lately that's been a difficult thing to find around here.

To make a long story short: My husband hurt his neck, which caused him some seriously painful shoulder problems. It's kept him home from work and we've used up nearly all of his vacation pay in the past several weeks. (Ugh.) But thankfully, with the chiropractic care, the pain clinic and therapy it looks like he'll be able to go back to work next week. I just pray it continues to heal. God has been so good through all of it and has provided for all of our needs. Things like this will really show you how strong (or weak) your faith is. I can't say I've felt very good about how strong my faith has been. With half the income as usual, Christmas around the corner and bills that won't just go away I pretty much hunkered down and settled into a nice little depression for a while.

 Then I thought of when I first became a child of God about 11 years ago. Brand new and enough faith to move a mountain. And you know what? Mountains DID move back then! Well, they were mountains to me anyway. And I recalled the words to a song that got me through some really difficult times back then (and they were often). "I Will Rest In You" by Jaci Velasquez. So, I googled it and found the song again. Wow, it's been a while since these words calmed my heart. And they did all over again. Just a flood of memories of the times He's been faithful and delivered us from dark times before.
(Here's a link to the only video I could find with the original song in english.)

Lord, I'm in the dark,
Seems to me the line is dead when I come calling.
No one
there, the sky is falling;
Lord, I need to know.
My mind is playing games again,
You're right where You have always been.
Take me back to You,
The place that I once knew as a little child;
Constantly the eyes of God watched over me.
Oh, I want to be
In the place that I once knew as a little child,
Fall into the bed of faith prepared for me.
I will rest in You,
I will rest in You,
I will rest in You.
Tell me I'm a fool,
Tell me that You love me for the fool I am,
[And*] comfort me like only You can,
And tell me there's a place
Where I can feel Your breath
Like sweet caresses on my face again.
Take me back to You,
The place that I once knew as a little child;
Constantly the eyes of God watched over me.
Oh, I want to be
In the place that I once knew as a little child,
Fall into the bed of faith prepared for me.

Anyway, I'm learning all over again how to rest in Him. And up until this evening it's been a big bunch of chaos around here. But I'm back now and look forward to sharing some upcoming posts and things I've been working on. Lot's of Christmas projects and lots of inspiration for beautiful handmade Christmas gifts and decor I've been seeing. It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here!

Good night everyone! ~Jen
(Stormy helping me with my Christmas card photos.)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Dress Up Your Couch (And your family)

 Now this is NOT what I expected when I was doing an internet search for a way to "dress up" my couch!
Goodbye Snuggie!
So I thought this was meant to be serious for a minute, but then I saw the other items on Plantiane's online shop. I got quite a chuckle out of what I saw.

 (I'm pretty sure my college-age daughter would appreciate this one this winter while waiting for those shuttle buses. Ha!)
 XX's  ~ Jen