Friday, March 31, 2006

The perfect place for a prayer shawl

I took my knitting with me to NC yesterday. What a surprise - I take my knitting everywhere! I finally finished a prayer shawl for a very special person (more on that later) and I wanted to take some pictures. We were visiting at the home of a very dear friend who lives on a heavily wooded lot that reminds me of a seminary everytime I go there. It is so tranquil and so beautiful there.

Though the property is very natural, it's owners have lovingly planted gardens and secluded private places to pray, read, write (or in my case, knit). Since the day was gorgeous, I decided to scour the grounds to look for the perfect spot to take a picture. There were lots of options, but imagine my surprise when I spotted this bench beneath a tree with a cross on it. I couldn't think of a more fitting place to take a picture of a prayer shawl!

Oreo Goats

Yesterday I went to Fearrington NC where I got to see the famous Belted Galloway cows and goats. These beautiful and unusual creatures are originally from Scotland and their purpose at Fearrington is "simply to make people smile" and they do. While they are affectionately known as "Belties", I prefer to call them "Oreos" for obvious reasons!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

What's in a Name?

When we're born, our earthly parents give us a name. For some of us, that name is an act of rememberance or honor for a family member or close family friend, either living or dead. For others, our parents searched the Bible, or popular books of Baby Names. Some of us were named after celebrities that were popular at the time of our birth. Regardless of how our parents chose our names, the point is that it was our parents, not us, who chose our name.

For those of us who got married and chose to do so, there is also the very popular option of assuming our husband's surname. While many consider this romantic and rather practical, I suspect it's early roots stem from a chauvinistic sense of property ownership. I won't belabor that feminist point here, other than to note that while those of us who got married and chose to change our last names still ended up with a name chosen by someone else.

So what's in a name? Webster's Online Dictionary defines a "name" as a word or words by which an entity is designated and distinguished from others. Interesting, but rather arbitrary and not particularly meaningful. I prefer the definition found in the Life Application Study Bible (NLT) which defines a name as one's identity or reputation.

In Genesis 32:27-28 the Bible tells us that after wrestling all night with a man, that man asked Jacob "What is your name?" Naturally, Jacob replied "Jacob." The man then said "Your Name will no longer be Jacob. It is now Israel, because you have struggled with both God and men and have won." (NLT).

God gave many people in the Bible new names (Abraham, Sarah and Peter are just a few). Their new names were important symbols of how God had changed their lives. Those who believe that God stopped talking and stopped blessing when the Bible was finished are sadly mistaken. He talks to us and blesses us continously, if only we'll listen, observe, acknowledge and obey.

Within this context, I am honored to announce that as of yesterday, my name has officially (legally) changed to Sydney Tyler Thomas. God placed the desire and the conviction on my heart to change my name for quite some time ago. Over a period of months, He revealed to me why the name change was important and what it symbolized. I am a new creature in Him and it was time to let go of the emotional and spiritual baggage I'd been carrying around for the past 47 years.

My flesh resisted the change for a while, not because I didn't love the name that God gave me - I do. But I was used to living that other life for so long that the thought of such a major change was frightening and overwhelming. Worse still, I was concerned about what my family and friends would think of me for doing something so drastic. But then God started working on me and I realized that through Him all things are possible, that many seeds had been planted but had not been growing on the rocky soil of my past, and that many of the people whose reactions I feared were part of the problem in the first place! My trust is in God and I've learned to look to Him, not to others, for acceptance, guidance, wisdom and unconditional love.

There is a lot of work that God is calling me to do as Sydney. Interestingly, many of them are things that I couldn't imagine doing before - starting a knitting ministry, ridding my life of toxic relationships, writing about some very difficult issues (more on this later), letting go of things, habits and yes, even people that no longer fit the new person I'm becoming. I know longer feel frightened or overwhelmed. I'm excited!

What's in your name? What's in your life? Is it a life that you've chosen or a life that's been chosen for you by others - your parents, other family members, friends? Who are you living for? Changing a name is a decision that shouldn't be taken lightly. It requires much prayerful consideration and leading from the Holy Spirit. In a case such as this, a name change is symbolic for much bigger life changes. It isn't an easy process, but is is surely a liberating one?

If you've already changed your name, or are praying about it, please let me know. As if giving me a great name wasn't enough, God also showed me some amazing legal shortcuts that saved me TONS of money! They may or may not work in your situation, but I'd be happy to share them.

I hope you'll share this journey with me by participating in this ministry. I know that God is going to bless Soulful Knitting Ministries in mighty ways. He already has.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Respecting the Alter Call

Last week while at the Joyce Meyer Ministries Conference in Winston-Salem, something happened that really annoyed me. I should have been prepared when Joyce asked that attendees be respectful of those seeking to turn their lives over to Christ by waiting until the alter call was completed before leaving. I must admit that I thought it was an odd and unnecessary request... until I actually saw it happen.

When she started the alter call, people starting hopping up all over the place, obviously to rush out to be the first to leave the parking lot. Joyce even quipped "What's the rush? I'm the one doing all the work here, all you have to do is sit still for a few more minutes!" You'd think that would have embarrassed people enough to sit down, but it didn't. In fact, people continued to leave their seats.

Now keep in mind that this was a coliseum with approximately 10,000 attendees, most of whom I would assume were Christians. I watched in utter disgust as the people who were trying to make their way down to the stage to receive Christ were held up and blocked by "Christians" anxious to leave early.

The sight reminded of someone inviting all of their new in-laws to their home after the wedding and leaving as their guests/new family members were arriving. How rude! I can only imagine what type of message this sent to those preparing to receive Christ. As members of the body, we should be praying for them and thanking God for their salvation, not running to the parking lot! Let's have some respect people!!!!

100 Things About Me

Since we're going to be knitting together (I hope), you may want to know a little about me...

1. I am a Christian.
2. I've lived in 6 states and another country (Canada). Okay, so I'm a nomad.
3. Of all the places I've lived, I loved Tampa-St Pete the most. In fact, that's the only one I really liked.
4. I've traveled to Canada (lived there for 9 months), Jamaica, Nassau, Barbados, France and Spain.
5. I spent the summer in Spain between 7th & 8th grades.
6. I'm not Catholic, but I went to an all-girls' Catholic high school.
7. I'm a fiscal conservative.
8. I wish I'd been a pediatric nurse.
9. I love to knit and read.
10. I like lots of different types of music, including classical, jazz, gospel, and "easy listening".
11. Although it would surprise all of my friends, I LOVE country music.
12. I'm the only Republican in my entire family - ever.
13. I love finding great deals on yarn at
14. I have 2 puppies and 2 kittens.
15. I'm a "fall" person when it comes to clothing colors - I look best in "vegetable" colors.
16. I've always secretly wanted to highlight my hair. I finally did it when I turned 45.
17. I took classical piano lessons for 13 years.
18. I've always wanted a baby grand piano. I plan to have one before I'm 50.
19. I want to retire to a small waterfront town and live like an eccentric artist.
20. I've wanted to write a book for years. I've finally done it.
21. I own my own business.
22. I put the earpiece of my cell phone in my ear when I'm driving in the mornings so I can pray out loud and people won't think I'm crazy.
23. I love to watch movies - especially good dramas... the ones that make me laugh and cry at the same time.
24. I loved the movie "Under the Tuscan Sun" and now I'm ready to move to Tuscany.
25. I read self-help books all the time. I still need help.
26. I'm usually reading at least 3 books at any given time.
27. I love a neat house, but I hate to clean.
28. I love to cook for dinner parties, but hate to cook just for myself or my family.
29. I'm much more introverted now than I was when I was younger.
30. Orange is my favorite color.
31. I once went horseback riding in a foot of snow in the mountains.
32. I had a fairy tale romance with a tall, dark and very andsome Jamaican man raised in London. His accent was to die for! I definitely got my groove back, at least for a little while.
33. I had a miscarriage. My daughter would have been 22 this year if she had lived.
34. I still miss her.
35. I knew I was getting "old" when I realized that I knew the words to most of the elevator music.
36. I want my next car to be an SUV with a GPS system. I might even go for a hybrid!
37. I was my class valedictorian in high school.
38. My first boyfriend was a hoodlum, but he was very, very cute!
39. My ex-husband was a minister. I didn't like being the Preacher's Wife.
40. I love flowers.
41. I thought I'd like gardening. It's very hard work. I like going to the florist better.
42. I wish I could paint.
43. I can read any music, but I can't play by ear at all.
44. I wish I could sing, but I can't.
45. I sing in my car anyway - loud.
46. I love being near water, especially the beach.
47. Being in nature makes me feel closer to God.
48. I don't like living in Richmond, but it looks like I'll be here for the duration.
49. I'm very emotional. I even cry for commercials.
50. I can be moody, but I try not to be.
51. I'm very impatient around incompetent people.
52. I used to be a sucker for love, but I finally learned better.
53. I've had major surgery twice in 2 years, and both times everything turned out fine.
54. I was diagnosed with lupus when I was 34 and didn't expect to live to see 40.
55. I'm 47and I've been in remission for years.
56. A boyfriend broke up with me because his mother had lupus and he said he couldn't stand by and "watch me die". His loss.
57. I cry at weddings, even if I don't know the couple getting married.
58. I'm afraid of bugs, snakes and heights.
59. I'm terrible at saving money.
60. I sometimes shop at designer consignment shops.
61. I love to tithe. I wish I earned more money so I could give more away (really!)
62. I'm not good at keeping secrets.
63. I have a terrible memory - I blame it on early menopause.
64. I want to travel more.
65. I'm afraid to fly, but I do when I have to.
66. I've had insomnia off and on for 10 years. It used to terrify me. Now I try to use the extra time to get more done.
67. I like to pray while I'm falling asleep.
68. I try to knit every day.
69. I usually read (fiction) at night before going to bed.
70. I love chinese and thai food.
71. I'd love to live on an island in the Caribbean.
72. I haven't saved for retirement and I'm getting scared.
73. I've been unemployed twice in my adult life and it's an awful feeling.
74. I was a whistle-blower at the last big company I worked for. That's why I'm no longer there.
75. I voted for Bill Clinton twice, then voted for George Bush twice. Go figure!
76. I thought I'd be a much better mother than I've turned out to be.
77. I don't like talking on the phone. I used to be able to do it for hours.
78. I love spending time alone. I hated it when I was younger.
79. I love dressing up and going out to dinner.
80. I want to learn latin dancing. I think it's the most romantic thing.
81. No matter how hard I try, my home office always looks like a hurricane just passed through.
82. I hate liver and brussel sprouts.
83. I've made some wonderful new friends this year.
84. My teenaged daughter would be very surprised if she knew some of the things I've done. She thinks I'm so conservative.
85. I can't dance, but I like to anyway.
86. I love to blog.
87. I've wanted to write a book for the last 10 years. I finally did it. I plan to write many more.
88. I like to spoil myself.
89. I'd love to win the lottery, but that would be kind of difficult since I don't play.
90. The curse of the boyfriend sweater is true.
91. I have fibromyalgia.
92. I feel much better when I follow a healthy diet, but it's hard for me to do. My favorite foods aren't good for me.
93. Public speaking is one of my biggest fears, although people say that I do it well.
94. I'd love to go on a cruise - maybe on the Mediterranean.
95. I hate cold weather, but I wouldn't mind going on a knitting cruise to Alaska.
96. I wish I were taller (I'm 5' 1-1/2")
97. I want to lose 20 lbs. I feel best when I weigh between 108 and 110.
98. I think communication is the most important thing in making relationships work.
99. I played the piano at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC with the DC Youth Orchestra when I was in high school.
100. I'm happiest when I'm being/doing something creative.

Whew. That was tough! :)

Feeling empowered

Last weekend my best friend and I drove to Winston-Salem NC to attend a Joyce Meyer Ministries Conference. We were so blessed aby being there, along with about 10,000 other attendees. We witness more than 500 people turn their lives over to Christ. It was amazing!

Joyce's first two sessions dealt with grief and lonliness, two topics I am all too well aware of. She reminded us that there are many types and causes of grief, and that while a time of grief is natural and quite healthy, a "spirit of grief" is not. Similarly, she reminded us that there is a difference between being lonely and being alone. I don't know about you, but some of the loneliest moments of my life have been while married. It is possible to be in the same bed with someone and still feel totally, utterly alone.

If you ever get a chance, I strongly encourage you to attend a Joyce Meyer Ministries conference. You'll be so glad you did. In addition to wonderful teaching, powerful praise, wonderful worship music, there are literally tons of books, tapes and CDs that are so inspirational and motivational. Here's the calender of upcoming conferences.

There are so many people out there, in our neighborhoods, in our cities and towns, and perhaps even in our own home, who are lonely and hurting. Of course we need to pray for them, but we need to do more. And we can. By now you know that my mission in life is to encourage knitters around the globe to step up to the knitting basket, take the needles by the horn, and start doing something to bless someone else.

I actually took my knitting with me and finished one prayer shawl and started another one while at the conference. What better way to infuse the prayer shawls with prayers and blessings that to have it with me at a conference with thousands of other Christians? Wow!

I planted some seeds for this ministry while there and already I am beginning to see those seeds begin to bloom. I am so expectant and excited about discovering what God has in store for us. Hopefully you'll join me on this adventure!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Breaking strongholds from the past

God has really been working on me for a while now. I'd been going around the same mountain of emotional drama time and time again for years. I kept asking "Why?" but I didn't want to hear God's reply. So the cycle of emotional pain, stress, broken relationships and chronic illnesses continued until I couldn't bear it any longer.

When I finally reached the end of myself, God was there to tell me again what He'd be telling me all along... that in my brokenness, I've been searching for healing in all the wrong places. I spent years pursuing a fast-paced, high-stakes career, adopting and raising a baby, marrying, divorcing and re-marrying (more times than I care to admit), moving from one state to another, making and leaving friendships, the list goes on. Each time I got what I thought I wanted, I realized that the emptiness inside still didn't go away, and with each problem that my new situation solved, it created many more. All I really needed was right there all along, if only I'd had the faith to believe that.

My natural tendency would be to lament the many miserable years that I "wasted", making one poor choice after another, blaming others for the predicaments I found myself in, and crying about the unfair hand I'd been dealt in life. But this time, I've chosen a different response. I've chosen to believe that I am exactly where I'm supposed to be, and that even in my mistakes, valuable life lessons were learned. I have confessed and by His grace, God has forgiven me. Now, I'm learning to forgive myself.

There is a song that's been on my heart for the last several days, "The God of a Second Chance". It fills my heart with unspeakable relief and comfort to know that the God I serve offers each of us a second chance, a second second chance, and as many chances as we need to get it right. I've tried the second chance thing before, but without much success. Although I did what I thought I needed to do on the surface to "re-invent myself", I was missing the two most important things. First, no matter how smart, analytical or self-disciplined I may think I am, I cannot live the life God has planned for me without His help and His guidance, every step of the way. Although it's not easy, I have to remind myself constantly that no problem, no worry, no fear is too big or too little for God. He wants to help each and every one of us, each and every moment of our lives, but only if we'll let Him.

The second, and equally important lesson I've learned is that in order to move forward, sometimes it's necessary to let go of the past. I cannot open my hands to receive God's blessings if they are balled up tightly clutching all of the old hurts, injustices and shames of the past. I can not even begin to see myself as God sees me until I am willing to let go of the lies about myself that I've believed all my life. From the kids at school who said cruel things about my thick glasses or my flat chest, to the boys in high school who always overlooked me for my more extroverted and curvacious girlfriends, to the ex-husbands who made me feel I was unlovable, and yes, even the family members who wanted me to be someone that I'm not.

Letting go of my past has not been easy. Not because it's a past that I'm proud of but because those dysfunctional habits are the only ones I've known. Change can be exciting, but it can also be scary and can feel overwhelming. That's where God comes in. Knowing that moving forward into the future He has for me will be so much more fulfilling than the past I'm choosing to leave behind makes change so much easier. Having faith that He will be holding my hand every step of the way gives me a courage and a comfort that was sorely lacking before.

So I've said a lot of good-byes lately... to old friends who drag me down rather than life me up, to old thought patterns that left me feeling worthless and depressed, to anger at the people who have hurt me, to my unrealistic expectations of myself and others. In the past year alone, I've moved, separated from my husband, forced my rebellious teen to make some difficult life-choices that are challenging her to learn to fly on her own at last, thrown or given away boxes and bags full of clothing, books, papers, momentos from my past life that no longer fit the person I have become, and lastly and perhaps most symbolically for me, I have legally changed my name. I have announced to God, to myself and to the world that I am literally a new creature in Him, and that because He is the God of a second chance, I have chosen to take it.

This afternoon, I sat in my prayer room knitting a prayer shawl and listening to a wonderful tape called "Breaking Strongholds from the Past" by Joyce Meyer. If you are tired of the life you've been living and if you are fearful of spending the rest of your life with more of the same, I strongly encourage you to listen to this inspiring message. It's been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. So, as Joyce puts it, if you're tired of living under a generational curse, bound by a dysfunctional past, make a generational choice to make a change. Today is a good day to start... Let go and let God.

Are you struggling to break strongholds from your past? Have you already succeeded in breaking free to live the life God has for you? I'd love to hear your stories. Feel free to post here.