Saturday, December 22, 2007

Seasons Greetings!

In thinking about what I wanted to post for Christmas, I decided to read what I posted last year. Amazingly, what I wrote 12 months ago is equally relevant a year later, so I decided to post it here again...
With rain and spring-like temperatures, it hasn't looked a lot like Christmas this year. In fact, I haven't encountered a single family member or friend who admitted to being "in the Christmas spirit" this year. I wonder why that is.

Perhaps its the ever-increasing commercialization (and attending stress) of the Holiday Season. I remember seeing Christmas decorations this year before Thanksgiving. Retailers seem to be dragging out prime shopping time for as long as possible. Perhaps its the incessant news stories about the ridiculous bickering that's going on in schools, airports, malls and town halls around the country. Apparently it's no longer politically correct to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. After all, someone might be offended. Or perhaps as our children grow up, family squabbles escalate and relationships fade, there are fewer "loved ones" to share this special season with.

Whatever the reason, it's been a difficult holiday season for many people. Perhaps that includes you... If not, consider yourself doubly blessed. Whether Christmas is turning out to be all you hoped for or not, it's important not to lose sight of the real reason we celebrate this special time. No matter how many gifts are or aren't under our trees this year, whether we even have a tree at all, we have all received a very special gift, God's unconditional love as expressed through His son Jesus. We all have a reason to celebrate - we have hope, we have forgiveness, we have redemption.

It's easy to get caught up in all of the wordly symbols of the holiday season, to compare the "success" of our circumstances to others, and for some of us, to become depressed by the perceived gap between how we spent this Christmas and how we'd hoped to. What's not as easy is to remind ourselves that no matter how alone or depressed or out of sorts we may feel, there is so much to be thankful for.

One of the most effective ways I've found for kicking that "poor me" feeling is to lose myself in service to others. Somehow, doing something for someone else always reminds me that even if I'm feeling helpless to make a difference in my own life at that moment, that I can make a difference in the life of someone else.

Last year I knit several scarves for a wonderful Bible College student to give as Christmas gifts since I knew she didn't have a lot of money to spend on presents at the time. I did a bit of Christmas knitting this year, but not as much as in years past. This year I decided instead to donate time to local charities. I coordinated the adoption of over 100 angels as part of the Salvation Army's Angel Tree program. It was the most gratifying experience to see the generosity of my co-workers in action as the gifts for the children started coming in. Bicyles, skate boards, Dora the Explorer items, educational toys and games, the most gorgeous outfits... seeing how these children were going to be blessed by total strangers on Christmas morning was a precious Christmas gift for me too.

I pray that you will have a joyous and joyful Christmas holiday season and that all of your Christmas wishes come true.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Hershey update

It appears that consumer outrage can make a difference. Apparently the Hershey Co. has decided to repackage it's new candy/breathmint that was practically indistinguishable from cocaine. I can't imagine how they ever thought this would fly, but it seems that wiser minds, or at least more litigation-conscious ones, have prevailed.

In a recent article on Hershey's change of heart, Philadelphia Daily News journalist Jill Porter reminds us all that Hershey's response to the public outcry against this product "is a compelling commentary on the power of public opinion".

Thanks to everyone who voiced their concerns and/or boycotted Hershey products. I now officially proclaim that we can all go back to eating Hershey's kisses!

Sock Wars

Apparently there's a lot of fun and excitement going on in the global knitting community that I am unaware of. For the second year now, there has been an international spin-off to the popular game, Assassins, in which knitters must knit a pair of socks for another knitter to whom they have been randomly assigned. Their mission, should they choose to accept it, is to complete and ship the socks they knit before they receive the pair of socks that another knitter knit for them. This year's sock pattern is called "Scar." There were 800 participants from around the world this year - I find that amazing! Click here to read more.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Hershey's is on the fence

It appears that Hershey's may be reconsidering it's recent decision to introduce a new breath mint/candy that resembles cocaine. I certainly hope so. But, until it's a done deal, I'm still not planning to purchase any Hershey's products and urge everyone who reads this to do the same and pass the word.

I was surprised to learn how many brands are distributed by the Hershey Company. Here's a partial list, which unfortunately includes some of my favorite candies:
  • Twizzlers
  • Ice Breakers
  • Hershey's (bars, kisses, morsels, etc.)
  • Reese's
  • Caco Reserve
  • Kit Kat
  • York
  • Almond Joy
  • Mounds
  • Jolly Rancher

Friday, December 07, 2007

What is Hershey thinking?

The Hershey Company has introduced a new powdered mint candy that is packaged to look like cocaine. I'd heard about this yesterday from a co-worker, but refused to believe it, until I read the article myself this morning. How could a long-standing trusted brand like Hershey do something this insane?

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why this is a horrible idea. Here are just a few:
  • A child finds some blue packets on the street, in an alley, or on the playground at school. He or she assumes it's candy and "eats" it. The child subsequently (1) gets sick; (2) consumes enough to get addicted and starts doing who-knows-what in order to be able to get more; or (3) overdoses and dies. Who's ultimately responsible?
  • Children start bringing blue packets to school. Teachers and administrators don't know if it's candy or crack. What should they do?
  • The article states that police officers are already concerned about the impact on law-enforcement efforts. Because they can't tell the difference between the candy and a dime bag of cocaine, they will have to test all of the blue bags they find - not knowing whether it's candy or cocaine. Is this how our law enforcement officers should be utilizing their already limited resources?
  • It's well-known that drug dealers often try to mix or replace drugs with common household products, some benign, some harmful. Imagine the number of additional drug-related deaths that are likely to result from drug deals gone bad over selling candy instead of crack. While I'm sure there are some that this would be good riddence, but many innocent people are harmed by drugs, sometimes just by being at the wrong place at the wrong time.
I'm not an activist and can't remember the last time I boycotted anything, but I'm boycotting all Hershey products until this candy is either removed from the market completely or re-packaged more appropriately. This is one of those times that I believe that consumers can truly make a difference, and for the sake of our children (and I mean that collectively - whether you've given birth to a child or not), we need to take a stand.

So, I'm asking that you do 3 things: (1) join me in boycotting Hershey products; (2) pass this information along to everyone you know; and (3) if you feel so inclined, send an e-mail to Hershey at their website.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Beauty from Buffalos

I never ceased to be amazed by the ingenuity of artists who can make something both beautiful and practical out of just about anything. Forget sheep, llama, alpaca, rabbits and goats, imagine knitting a luxurious cap, scarf or sweater made from yarn from a buffalo! It's not inexpensive, but it certainly is a conversation piece. Check it out at American Buffalo Products.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A big bear hug for Sister Lauren

Sister Lauren Spence, of Mankato MN recently completed her 1,000th teddy bear knit for charity. That's right, I didn't add any extra zeros. This amazing woman knit ONE THOUSAND teddy bears for the Mother Bear Project that will be sending the bears to African children who have lost their parents to AIDS. Just think, of the 23,170 bears that have been donated to date, this woman made 1,000 of them! And who said that one person can't make a differentce? To read more about Sister Lauren, click here.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Gratitude Quotes

If I had to pick one state of mind to live in all the time, I think it would be gratitude. I believe that those people who can express sincere gratitude in any circumstance are truly blessed. I've got a lot to be thankful for this Holiday Season and I'll post about that soon. But for now, I decided to share some of my favorite quotes on gratitude.

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity.... It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow." (Melodie Beattie)

"Blessed are those that can give without remembering and receive without forgetting."(Author Unknown)

"He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has."(Epictetus)

"You simply will not be the same person two months from now after consciously giving thanks each day for the abundance that exists in your life. And you will have set in motion an ancient spiritual law: the more you have and are grateful for, the more will be given you."(Sarah Ban Breathnach)

Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow."(Author Unknown)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Defying the Curse of the Boyfriend Sweater

A few months ago I "broke up" with the man I'd been dating. To be honest, to say that we "broke up" is not quite accurate. Technically, he dumped me. But that's not the point of this story.

My ex knew that I love to knit and to my surprise, just a few weeks before he vanished, he mentioned the possibility of me knitting an afghan for him. I was elated. I scoured the internet for patterns and he finally chose a great one and I ordered the yarn. In fact, the box of 15 skeins of black wool arrived the week before he flew the coop.

So, there I was, sitting home alone, newly dumped and crying like there was no tomorrow, staring at a big box full of black yarn - a very expensive big box of black yarn, I might add. Yes, I was aware of the Curse of the Boyfriend Sweater. And, although I don't consider myself to be superstitious, I've been a victim of the curse in the past. So naturally my first instinct was to return the yarn, or if that wasn't possible, to sell it on e-bay.

But then this wasn't technically the Boyfriend Sweater Curse because he wasn't my boyfriend anymore, right? More importantly, although I couldn't explain why at the time, I needed to knit this afghan. And I'm so glad I did, because transforming that black box of yarn that symbolized a failed relationship into something that I'm very proud of was just what I needed to do to help me move on.

What started out as a big box of black wool is now a beautiful black cabled afghan that I gave to my ex today. It took the better part of two months to knit, but it was worth every minute that I spent on it.

Why would I spend that kind of money and time on a man who dumped me? I'm so glad you asked! :)

Knitting this afghan was not about him, it was about me. For me, there is something so cathartic, so healing, about knitting. The time I spend knitting is meditative, it's contemplative, it's prayerful, it's relaxing and it's creative. And in the end, it's much less expensive and much more productive than time spent talking to a therapist.

When I started this project, it was painfully slow-going. Perhaps the flood of tears clouded my vision and slowed me down. I didn't think I'd ever be able to get through this. By the time I reached the middle, I was mad as hell and the yarn was almost flying through my fingers.

But then something very different happened. The true lessons of this experience started to take shape. I did do it right this time. I did learn from all those failed relationships of the past and entered this one with hope and optimism, but also with important knowledge about myself, my co-dependent tendencies and my "relationship issues". In this relationship, probably for the first time, I was the woman I wanted to be, and damn it, she's pretty cool.

So while there are days that I still miss him, and though I detest the way he handled our break-up, I can't help but be grateful for the lessons this experience gave me. I'm more self-confident now than ever before. I have an even clearer idea of what I want (and don't want) in a relationship, and I know that I can survive without one. How can I stay mad at someone who, albeit unknowingly, helped me discover these truths about myself?

Needless to say, I'm no longer heartbroken. I'm no longer angry. I just am.

So what's the moral of this story? Not everything we think we're doing for someone else is really about them, sometimes it's about us. Knitting, in particular, is about so much more than the finished product. It's about the process. I have no idea how my ex will respond to the afghan. I have absolutely no illusions about getting back together. In fact, although I'm hoping that he'll keep it, I'm not even sure that he will. But that's not the point. What matters is that the process of knitting that afghan for him helped me find much-needed closure. In this case, the quasi-curse turned out to be a blessing.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

We can all make a difference

There is no shortage of opportunities around the world for each of us to use our knitting and crocheting gifts and talents to make a difference. Whether you're interested in helping organizations that support children, pets, senior citizens or the homeless, there's a project out there that can use your help. Even if you don't have a lot of time or money, there's always something you can do. And... simply reading the lnewspaper or watching the evening news reminds as all that there are so many people that could use our help.

Who didn't watch with horror as wildfires raged in California just a few weeks ago? Although the media has moved on to other stories, there are thousands of people whose lives have been changed forever by the fires. GeorgeAnn Smith heard the call and immediately started the San Diego Wildfire Blanket Project. She is soliciting donations of 8" knitted or crocheted squares, in any color or pattern, that will be stitched together to make afghans for families who lost their homes in the fire. Already the response has been overwhelming, but this is a huge project and there's a lot of work that needs to be done. Please visit GeorgeAnn's blog and considering sending a square or two.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Autumn leaves

The summer was very dry in Virginia this year. As a result, we haven't gotten the fabulous display of fall color this year. However, I couldn't resist taking this picture of some trees near my home.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Apparently this knitting meme has been around for quite some time, but I saw it for the first time today at The Knitting Wildflower and decided to post it here just for fun.

The "official" rules say to indicate items that have been done in bold and things you want to try in italics, but I've decided to keep it simple. Things I've done are in bold, and my editorial comments are in italics. Feel free to copy and paste to your blog if you're interested:

Afghan (I'm almost finished a very unusual afghan project which I'll be posting about soon)
Garter stitch
Knitting with metal wire (I took a class in knitting with wire at a local yarn shop. We made wire and bead bracelets)
Shawl (I've made dozens of prayer shawls for this ministry)
Stockinette stitch
Socks: top-down
Socks: toe-up
Knitting with camel yarn (I didn't know there was such a thing!)
Mittens: Cuff-up
Mittens: Tip-down
Knitting with silk (I just bought some recycled sari silk to make a purse)
Moebius band knitting
Participating in a KAL (I started, but never finished)
Sweater (at least a dozen)
Drop stitch patterns
Knitting with recycled/secondhand yarn (that's the beauty of the SKM prayer shawls)
Slip stitch patterns
Knitting with banana fiber yarn
Domino knitting (=modular knitting)
Twisted stitch patterns
Knitting with bamboo yarn
Two end knitting
Charity knitting (this is just about all I do these days)
Knitting with soy yarn
Toy/doll clothing (do people really do this?)
Knitting with circular needles (the only needles I use if I can help it)
Baby items
Knitting with your own handspun yarn
Graffiti knitting (I don't have a clue what this is)
Continental knitting
Designing knitted garments
Cable stitch patterns (incl. Aran) (I LOVE cables!!!)
Lace patterns
Publishing a knitting book (I'm expecting the final manuscript back any day now. Stay tuned!!!)
Teaching a child to knit
American/English knitting (as opposed to continental)
Knitting to make money (unfortunately, people don't want to pay anything close to what the items are worth by the time you include the cost of materials and time spent)
Knitting with alpaca

Fair Isle knitting
Norwegian knitting
Dying with plant colors (I do want to try this ... it looks like a lot of fun!)
Knitting items for a wedding (are you kidding?_
Household items (dishcloths, washcloths, tea cosies…)
Knitting socks (or other small tubular items) on one or two circulars
Knitting with someone else’s handspun yarn
Knitting with dpns
Holiday related knitting
Teaching a male how to knit
Knitting for a living
Knitting with cotton
Knitting smocking
Dying yarn
Knitting art
Knitting two socks on two circulars simultaneously
Knitting with wool
Textured knitting

Kitchener stitch
Knitting with beads
Long Tail CO
Knitting and purling backwards
Machine knitting
Knitting with self patterning/self striping/variegated yarn
Stuffed toys
Baby items
Knitting with cashmere
Knitting with synthetic yarn

Writing a pattern
Knitting with linen
Knitting for preemies
Tubular CO
Freeform knitting
Short rows
Cuffs/fingerless mits/armwarmers
Knitting a pattern from an online knitting magazine
Knitting on a loom
Thrummed knitting
Knitting a gift
Knitting for pets
Hair accessories
Knitting in public
Knitting with buffalo yarn
Knitting with pygora (what???)
Dyeing with food dye/drink mixes
Dyeing with chemical dyes (acid, etc)

Thursday, November 01, 2007

A spoonful of sugar

Today I remembered a song from the Mary Poppins movie that I loved as a child. I'm sitting here at work trying not to be too disappointed that I didn't get a job that I interviewed for recently. Spiritually I know that when one door closes another door opens, and that something better is in store. But that is long-term thinking. In the short-term, that door closed on an immediate way out of a situation that is not working. I hate job-hunting under the best of circumstances, and know enough about the current state of the economy to know that this is not the best of circumstances to be looking for another job.

But, today is Thursday and it's almost noon. That means that it's time to go to the weekly knitting group that I started in the building where I work. It is the one thing that I truly look forward to at the office. And for that one hour each week, I'm glad I'm where I am. So for now, knitting is my spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down.
What's yours?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Growing the ministry

I had a meeting last week with a wonderful woman who works for the Office of Family Violence in the Virginia Department of Social Services. We met concering a drive to collect no-longer-used cell phones for the HopeLine project. Please e-mail me if you have a phone you'd like to donate.

While we were talking, I mentioned this ministry and the prayer shawls we knit for victims of sexual violence. She was very interested in learning more about the ministry and working with me to find ways to work cooperatively with the domestic violence shelters throughout the state. An obvious connection would be to provide shawls directly through the participating shelters through this umbrella organization, making it much easier to ensure that the shawls are getting into the hands of women who may be blessed by them.

Another longer-term idea would be to develop an informal "knitting therapy" project in which local volunteer knitters would "host" knitting sessions, perhaps accompanied by a group therapist, where shelter residents can sit, knit and talk. While they're talking about their issues, they would also be knitting prayer shawls for other survivors. Not only would they reap the therapeutic benefits of knitting, but they would also be helping to create something special to be passed on to another woman who was a victim of similar circumstances. I don't know yet how big the shelters are (how many women live in each), but it would be awesome to come to the initial meeting at each shelter with a prayer shawl for every woman who was staying there, and then to leave the group with the ongoing goal of having enough prayer shawls for each new resident who comes there.

I know this is a lofty goal, but I think it's doable, and I think we could really make a difference in the lives of these women who have suffered so much. I'll be posting more on this soon, but if you have any comments or suggestions on making this happen, please let me know. Also, please e-mail me if you live in the Richmond area and would be willing to join me for a yarn-winding party to make more shawl balls sometime soon.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Knitted stamp for the Holidays

Just in time for the holidays, the US Postal Service has issued a commemorative stamp honoring the craft of knitting. To learn more about the design and creation of these stamps visit the USPS site.

© 2007 USPS. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, October 26, 2007

A rare knitting sight

Today I noticed a guy sitting in the lobby of the office building where I work knitting. Yes, that's right, a MAN knitting in public. And this was not just any knitting project - he was knitting a bright orange and burgundy (go Va Tech!) cabled sweater vest for his dad, without a pattern! I was blown away!

Of course I had to ask him a million questions... It's not every day that I see a manly man knitting a cabled sweater vest. He taught himself to knit a few years ago while stationed in Iraq. He said that some of his fellow soldiers gave him a bit of a hard time for a while, but before he left, he'd taught 3 more of them to knit.

He's a member of a local knitting group that meets at a local bookstore, and as a new tenant in my building, he's planning to join us in our now weekly lunchtime knitting get-togethers. I know there are men out there knitting, and enjoying it, but it really made my day to actually see one!

Monday, October 22, 2007

My new screensaver

While purging a ton of computer files as part of my office makeover project, I found this picture that I'd forgotten that I took several years ago when I was looking for cover designs for my soon-to-be-released knitting book (more details to follow). I decided that it was the perfect screensaver for my new office.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Help for knitting pain

A few years ago during a particularly difficult period of my life I was severely stressed and found that knitting was the only thing that helped. This continued over the course of several months until I developed a serious case of "knitter's elbow" and carpel tunnel. I had no idea that knitting could cause repetitive stress injuries, but it can. Since then I've met other knitters who've had similar problems.

But at last there's relief. I saw an ad in the paper yesterday for a new product from Thermacare, the company that makes those wonderful, long-lasting heating pads that last all day. They've just introduced a fingerless glove product called "Thermacare Arthritis Heatwraps". What a brilliant idea and a God-send for serious knitters!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Knitting at work

I must have been talking about knitting a lot at work because before I knew it, people started asking me to teach them to knit. Rather than try to schedule a ton of one-on-one knitting lessons, I decided to post an announcement in the common areas of the building that I would be teaching a 4-week beginner's knitting class during lunch time for anyone who's interested.

About a dozen people from several different offices signed up, and tomorrow will be our third class. It's going quite well, although we'd be further along were it not for the fact that we had several new knitters join last week and I'm expecting more to come tomorrow. I don't mind at all, I just worry that it might frustrate some of those who are further along and ready to move to the next level.

Thankfully, I have two knitting buddies who work in another office building a few blocks away and they come over and knit with us, mainly to help provide more hands-on instruction to those who need it.

Already I'm hearing rumblings that several in the class want to transition from a 4-week beginner's class to an on-going knitting group. That hadn't been my original intention, but I think I like the idea. The best part is that because of the nature of my job, the knitting class actually qualifies as "work-related", so I can knit for an hour and then take lunch. I think we should start an hour earlier, knit for two hours, and then take lunch! :)

Looking for a fun way to make new friends and influence people at work? Offer to teach a knitting class. If you're not quite up to that, start bringing your knitting to work and knit during your lunch break. You'll probably be surprised at what an ice-breaker that would be. Even if you don't find another soul to knit with, I bet you'll have a very relaxing lunch break.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Although the I've officially handed off the Think Pink Challenge project, I recently realized that had accumulated many many more scarves than I'd realized since I shipped out several hundreds of scarves last winter to over 20 breast cancer treatment facilities around the country. Since that time I moved and still had some scarves packed in boxes in storage, and as more scarves came in, I put those in storage as well because by then it was too warm to send out scarves anyway.

However, since October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I decided that this was the perfect time to make sure that all the scarves get to women who will be blessed by them, and to make mores room in storage for yarn donations for the prayer shawl ministry.

Today I delivered 200 pink scarves to the new Virginia Breast Center, part of the Bon Secours hospital network. They have three facilities throughout the local area and promised to distribute them among the centers to patients as they are diagnosed. They were absolutely thrilled to receive the scarves.

Thanks again to everyone who worked so hard to make this project a success! It exceeded my wildest expectations by far.

If you're interested in continuing to knit in support of breast cancer, please contact a local breast cancer treatment facility in your local area and deliver your donations there directly. Also, during this process I received two special requests that I promised to pass along:

First, although the numbers are small, there are men who are diagnosed with breast cancer as well. It was suggested that at least a few scarves be knitting in shorter lengths, with deeper pink tones, and basic patterns that could be worn by men.

Second, several centers mentioned that there are many other patients fighting various cancers other than breast cancer and because the breast cancer awareness groups are so visible now, breast cancer patients are getting a tremendous amount of support, which is wonderful, but I can imagine how sad it must be for other cancer patients who feel overlooked and forgotten. So, please consider knitting scarves in other colors for in support of other types of cancers. The following are a few links I found that list colors for the various types of cancers. Please note that I have not compared these lists to see if they are all consistent. I hope they are!

  • CauseKeepers

  • Awareness Ribbons

  • Charming Designs - Awareness Bracelets
  • Saturday, October 06, 2007

    Planting seeds

    Something really wonderful happened this week. I received an e-mail from a Robin, knitter in NY who'd been to a Knit-Out (or maybe it was a Knit-In?) and seen one of the SKM prayer shawls there. She was moved to contact me to offer her support. She'd already talked to a few of her friends, who wanted to help knit more prayer shawls.

    One of those friends, Lori, is a teacher who'd been thinking about teacher her students to knit. Lori wanted to use a prayer shawl as the focus of both a hands-on knitting class and a community service project. Together, she and her students are going to knit a single shawl (with each person knitting a piece of it), and when it's done, they are going to present it to a woman in their local community who I'm sure will be blessed by their labor of love.

    What makes this special on so many levels is that Christine, who originally knit the prayer shawl, shared it at the knitting event, that Robin and Lori thought enough of this ministry to want to get involved, that Lori now plans to share our work with a set of new knitters, AND, all this is being introduced through their Temple. Yes, even though I'm a Christian, I am delighted that Robin and Lori, who are Jewish, recognized that we are all God's children and that there is more than enough of His work for all of us! I am thrilled to have them helping to spread this ministry.

    I've asked Lori to send pictures of her group's progress so that I can post them here.

    Sunday, September 30, 2007

    Precious pearls

    While reading the paper this morning I came across an interesting book review about a new book, Watercolored Pearls, written by a local author, Stacy Hawkins Adams. The storyline seemed interesting enough, but what really resonated with me was the explanation of how the book got it's title.

    According to the review, the three lead women characters are each given a gift of pearls by an older friend, who explains that a grain of sand or other irritant invades an oyster, which in turn coats the irritant with a substance (nacra) which eventually hardens and protects the oyster from the irritant. "This is a metaphor for female lives, she explains, in which painful challenges make women stronger and more beautiful."
    That passage reminded of the dozens of women I've made prayer shawls for and the countless others I've met through this ministry. As with natural pearls, these beautiful women represent different colors, ages, backgrounds, and professions. Yet they all share a common thread. In one way or another, each have suffered and survived trauma of one type or another at the hands of a stranger, friend, family member or loved one. As horrific as their pain may have been, what matters at the end of the day is the miraculous ways that these women have gone on with their lives in spite of their pasts.
    Like precious pearls, our suffering has made us stronger.

    Thursday, September 27, 2007

    Giving the best

    Every now and then a post really warms my heart. Although I'm always happy to know that knitters and crocheters are sharing their gifts with others, I'm sometimes suprised and disappointed that people sometimes give away their leftovers or their "mistakes" and consider it charitable knitting. Of course this issue isn't unique to crafters, I've heard stories about people donating used underwear and I knew of an attorney who donated a business suit to Goodwill after it came back from the tailor, who said that the worn crotch seam couldn't be replaced. An attorney! True story!

    Because people even think about donating items to people less fortunate, I have to give credit for the thought that counts. But, in a recent post, Adminnie at Lime and Violet reminds that charity knitting deserves our best efforts too.

    Wednesday, September 26, 2007

    The Art of Gifting

    When it comes to giving gifts, we've become spoiled. Actually, we've become lazy. How often do we wait until the last minute to purchase birthday, anniversary or even Christmas gifts, only to rush out and get a gift card? How often do the gifts we give depend on what's on sale or what happens to be featured in a special store display or in the latest catalog or web page? I'll be the first to admit that it can be extremely difficult to give a gift to someone that we don't know well. But what's our excuse when it comes to family members and/or close friends? My guess is that we opt for the easy way out when it comes to gift giving simply because it's easy. We simply don't want to take the time or go to the trouble of thinking hard enough and long enough about that special person to pick a gift that is truly special.

    Another excuse that I often hear, and that I've used myself, is that it's too expensive. Somewhere along the way we've been duped into believing that a good gift is an expensive gift. Of course money can buy some really cool stuff, but in my opinion, that's not what "gift-giving" is about.

    One of the most heartwarmingly beautiful wedding bands I've ever seen is one that was made by a soldier for his wife out of a silver nickel. Although I can't imagine how painstaking the task must have been, he described the process of hitting the nickel with a spoon over and over again to shape it into a band. That's how he spent long lonely days onboard a Navy ship while separated from his girlfriend. He was probably in his 70's when he showed me the ring. He'd given it to her when they were in their 20's.

    I love to knit. When I was married, my husband made a pair of knitting needles for me out of wooden dowels. He carved, shaped and sanded them by hand. He stained them and then added jade caps on the ends. We are no longer together, and I've donated or re-gifted many of the expensive things he gave me. But those simple knitting needles, that he made with love (when he still loved me) I chose to keep.

    I think Ralph Waldo Emerson got it right in an essay entitled "Gifts" in 1844.

    "The only gift is a portion of thyself... Therefore the poet brings his poem; the shepherd, his lamb; the farmer, corn; the miner, a gem; the sailor, coral and shells; the painter, his picture; the girl, a handkerchief of her own sewing. This is right and pleasing, for it restores society in so far to the primary basis, when a man's biography is conveyed in his gift... But it is a cold, lifeless business when you go to the shops to buy me something, which does not represent your life and talent, but a goldsmith's."

    My dear friend Susan must understand what Mr. Emerson was talking about, because recently she sent me a gift that I will cherish for the rest of my life. Susan is a talented, thoughtful and sensitive blogger. She's also an accomplished and successful writer, having published and sold many books. She's written before about how she loves to write long-hand and has written about the tools of her trade. She knows that I love to write too and has been very supportive of my writing goals.

    Susan sent me the most beautiful pen I've ever seen. It's a Levenger pen, which is awesome, and the fact that it's orange, which is one of my favorite colors, makes it even nicer. But the best thing of all is not that Susan went out and bought me an expensive ink pen, because she didn't. What's incredible to me is that this is one of Susan's favorite pens, one that she's written thousands of words with. It has been a part of her world for a long time... and she gave it to me. Somehow she knew that I'd understand the significance, the eloquence and the "perfectness" of her gift.

    Susan and I met through our blogs in early spring. We post on each other's blogs and e-mail privately off-line almost daily and talk by phone at least once a week. For some unexplicable reason, although our friendship is still relatively new and we live on opposite sides of the country, I feel like we've known each other forever. And now, I have a very special piece of her world here in mine and I am truly touched. Today I want to publicly thank Susan for her thoughtfulness and I thank God for Susan's friendship.

    Monday, September 24, 2007

    A new face for this blog

    OK. This time I'm really back. Summer is over and it's time to get back to business. It's been a long break from the ministry from me, but God continues to work with me and through me in other ways. Over the coming weeks, I'll share some of the insights I've been given over the past several months and share with you some of what I've been up to.

    To be honest, I haven't been knitting as much in the past few months as I had been. After knitting literally dozens of prayer shawls, pink scarves and baby hats last year, I think I burned myself out. I didn't pick up my knitting needles for months, and I'm surprised to admit that I really didn't miss it.

    But then, I re-read the manuscript of my book, The Joys of Soulful Knitting, which is about to be published at last (more on this soon). I was reminded of why I engage in the practice of Soulful Knitting and how important it is to me, on so many levels. I'm going through a difficult situation personally, and there is a special person that I feel the need to knit for, so I've undertaken a truly "soul full" knitting project that I try to devote some quality time to each evening. I'll post a picture when I'm done.

    As far as the future of this blog goes, it's been on my heart for some time now to use this space to highlight some of the many wonderful charitable projects that are bringing knitters (and crocheters) from around the world together to generously donate their time and talents to brighten the lives of others. I'd also like to share some stories of Soulful Knitters in action. So stay tuned, I hope you'll enjoy the new additions that are coming.

    Of course, if you know of projects and/or stories of Soulful Knitters, please let me know. I'd love to spread the word of their work.

    Happy Knitting!

    Saturday, May 26, 2007

    An apologetic return and a few changes

    It has been way too long since I've blogged here. Thanks to everyone who's posted comments here and/or sent e-mails of support to me offline during my absence. I can't exactly say I'm "alive and well", but I can say that I'm finally "alive and better". It's been a long, hard winter and spring, but I'm looking forward to the sun and warmth of summer.

    I was re-energized this morning when I counted 7 new prayer shawls that have come in from wonderful volunteers over the last several weeks. They're beautiful and my heartfelt thanks goes to all who've so generously donated their time and talents to create these shawls. For those who've requested new kits, I'm way behind in creating the shawl balls, but I'll get more yarn out to you as soon as I can. I really need to host a local yarn-winding party to get this done. As a side note, if any of you live in the Richmond area and would like to help, please send me an e-mail off-line.

    Of course, we can always use more yarn donations. I've got a lot of full skeins that it's going to take a while to go through, but if you've got leftover yarn from your stash that you want to get rid of (anything of 12" or more is fine), please feel free to send that to me for use in the shawls. In addition to helping you reduce your stash, getting the yarn in smaller increments is much easier for me in terms of storing all this yarn!

    Also, I think I'd like to expand the reach of this ministry. While the shawls have generally been given to women who have been victims of sexual violence, there are lots of other women who are in pain who could be equally blessed. For example, depression and other mood disorders is another area where I think we can really be a blessing. Now that there are more knitters making the shawls, I finally at the point where I need help identifying recipients for the shawls. This gets tricky because we'll never be able to knit enough shawls to give one to every one who might be blessed by one (or who just wants one), so we still need to use some discretion, but I'd like to invite you to start thinking of people that you know or know of, who we might be able to send a shawl to.

    It's not necessary to go into great detail, but in order to help if we end up with more names than we have shawls, please send a brief explanation of why you think the person you're recommending should get a shawl and of course, send contact information. Also, if it's someone you know, if you'd prefer to deliver the shawl personally, let me know that as well.

    In an effort to try to better manage my limited time and energy, I'm going to have to bow out of taking the lead on Think Pink Challenge. I was amazed and ecstatic about the response to our first year of the project, and certainly hope that it will continue. Sadly, I'm just not able to take the lead. It's just gotten too big for me to handle on my own. Instead, I'd like to suggest that people continue to make the scarves and instead of sending them to me, deliver them directly to a local hospital, American Cancer Society, or other breast cancer organization in your area. If you need help finding an organization, please let me know and I may be able to help.

    Thank you again for your thoughts, prayers and support of this ministry.

    God bless!

    Wednesday, March 07, 2007

    Lessons from unlikely places

    I must confess a guilty pleasure... I love ordering entire seasons worth of DVDs through NetFlix and watching them one after another while I'm winding balls of yarn for prayer shawls. Right now I'm watching the first season of one of my all-time favorite shows - La Femme Nikita. If you've never heard of it, it's sort of a "Mission Impossible" (the old TV show, not the Tom Cruise movie) meets "Alias", with a touch of "24" thrown in. The story revolves around a female counter-terrorism agent, Nikita. Like Jack Bauer of "24" fame, she's a do-whatever-it-takes-to-get-the-mission-accomplished agent, with a heart of gold underneath that rock hard exterior.

    In the episode I watched last night, Nikita was training another agent and trying to help her through a simulation in which she had to shoot-or-be-shot, in rapid-fire succession. The agent was growing increasingly frustrated because she kept getting shot and the harder she tried to avoid getting shot, the more the shots came. Finally Nikita stepped in and did the same simulation herself, also getting shot several times, but making it through the simulation.

    As I watched, I had the same initial reaction that the agent-in-training had - why is it that Nikita was getting shot so much when she was clearly a very capable agent? When the test was over, Nikita explained that the point of the exercise was not to avoid getting shot - that was impossible - the test was how you reacted AFTER being shot. In other words, do you give up or do you regroup and keep fighting back?

    Interestingly, I've been thinking about that episode a lot since last night and I realized that I'm like that agent-in-training in my own life right now. I'm in the midst of a series of tests, which I liken to those shots that are being fired in rapid succession from multiple directions. The more I try to avoid being shot at, the faster and harder the shots come. I had it wrong - Nikita is right... spiritually, it's not our ability to avoid tests and trials that matters to God, because He's already told us that trials will come in our lives. Instead, it's our ability to get up, dust ourselves off, rearrange that spiritual armor and fight back. As long as I continue to focus on the attacks, the pain they're causing and the seeming "unfairness" of it all, the more they cripple me and stunt my spiritual growth. But when I turn my focus instead from the actual problems to my reaction to them, things don't seem as overwhelming.
    So, I no longer feel so guilty about watching tv while I work (LOL). This simple experience has reminded me that life is full of spiritual lessons. It's just up to me to be on the lookout for them. I believe that God is always speaking, in one way or another. It's up to me to make sure that I'm always listening.

    Thursday, February 22, 2007

    Who's your Daddy?

    I've been trying to avoid all of the obscenely voyeuristic coverage of the Anna Nicole Smith story over the past few weeks, but for a cable news junkie like me, it's been rather hard to miss. I've found this story to be disgusting, heart-wrenching, tragic, comedic and enlightening, all at the same time. I'm particularly struck by the varied commentary from everyday people who don't seem to really understand what this story, and the coverage of this story, says not only about Anna Nicole Smith, but about our culture. With all that's going on in the world today, the facination with this story is truly sad.

    That said, my heart goes out to the one true victim in this case - baby Danielle Lynn. No matter what you think of her mother, her grandmother, or any of the growing number of prospective fathers, that little girl did not ask for the lifetime of pain she is certain to endure in the midst of this mess. I find myself praying for her every time I hear her mother's name mentioned.

    This story has me thinking about paternity... how ironic it is that at the same time men are coming out of the woodwork to claim this innocent baby girl, there are thousands of innocent babies born every day who's legitimate biological fathers go to great lengths to deny their paternal responsibilities. The skeptic in me suspects that there are nearly a half a billion reasons why so many people want to be this particular baby's father.

    In keeping with the daddy theme, I've also been thinking about what all this fatherhood stuff is really about. I am definitely not a feminist who believes that children don't need fathers, but I'm also aware that many children suffer their greatest hurts at the hands of their fathers. I can't think of a single long-term survivor of sexual violence that I've met through the years that doesn't have a story to tell about a fractured relationship with her father. In some cases, her abuse was suffered at the hands of her father or stepfather, but in many cases, emotional and/or physical alienation from her father exacerbated either the circumstances surrounding her violation or severly impacted her ability to heal. I would argue that even women who have not been violated in the strictest sense of the word more often than not develop their sense of self-worth (or lack thereof) and develop models of how they will interact with the men in their lives (specifically in the areas of trust and emotional intimacy) based in large part on the relationships they had with their fathers or father-figures as they were growing up.

    Not all of us were blessed with wonderful earthly fathers, and for those who were, it is truly a blessing. But our lives will change immeasurably for the better once we realize that while earthly fathers are important, it's our Heavenly Father who is the only one we can look to for everything we need. No matter who got your mother pregnant, raised you during your childhood, abandoned you, loved you, caused your tears or wiped them away, only one Father has always been there, and will always be there... even when you can't feel His presence. Once you know in your heart that there is only one true answer to the question "Who's your Daddy?" it becomes a little easier to put all of this earthly "stuff" into perspective. I pray that God will place someone in baby Danielle Lynn's life who will teach her this truth.

    Monday, February 12, 2007

    SKM Goes Global!!!

    I am thrilled to announce that we are officially about to launch our first "international" chapter of Soulful Knitting Ministries. I'd been praying about how to grow this ministry and reach as many women as possible, and God answered that prayer by bringing another Knitting Angel named Linda who lives in Canada, along with several of her knitting friends who are starting the Canadian version of SKM.

    I've received e-mails from some of you asking about collecting yarn and/or knitting prayer shawls for women in Canada, so here's your chance! Linda has set up a new e-mail address specifically for SKM. If you live in Canada and want to join our ministry, either by donating yarn and/or knitting prayer shawls, please contact Linda directly.

    I can't thank Linda and her friends enough for stepping up to the plate and participating in such an amazing way. This is what Soulful Knitting is all about!

    Thursday, January 25, 2007

    Mustard Seeds

    One of the ironies about faith is that while God says that not much is required (as tiny as a mustard seed), the trials used to grow our faith our often HUGE. Perhaps it's that very contradiction that increases our spiritual muscles the most.

    I think I must have a nomadic spirit, or perhaps I'm a gypsy, because I have moved more times in my life than I'd care to count - and no, I'm not a military brat so I can't use that as an excuse. I'm reminded of the many furniture movers that have helped me along the way. It's not all that remarkable when the big, burly ex-football-player-types show up to move the furniture. That's what most of us expect movers to look like. But what's impressive is when the slight-in-stature guys show up for the heavy lifting. My first thought is always "How on earth are these guys going to move this stuff?" But they always do. And I must admit, they're often more efficient and faster than the big guys. It's apparent that what they lack in bulk, they compensate for with discipline, focus and strategy. They've figured out the physics of movement and somehow manage to get the job done.

    I think God grows our faith in the same way. If we only move the small boxes and the household knick-knacks, how will we ever grow? How will we ever know how much we're capable of? It's only by facing the big stuff that we have the opportunitiy to exercise our spiritual muscles. What a wonderful blessing to realize that you're much stronger than you thought you were.

    Saturday, January 20, 2007

    A true survivor

    Again God has responded to my request that He show me who to send prayer shawls to. While reading the local paper this week I learned of an amazing young woman who by incredible courage, persistance, and the sheer grace of God, escaped an horrific attack by her boyfriend. I won't go into the sordid details here, but if you're interested, click here to read more about this amazing young woman and what she went through.

    I contacted the local police department and was put in touch with a detective who is working closely with her. He's offered to deliver the shawl to her next week. While I was writing a letter to her, God also laid it on my heart to ask her if she was a knitter, and if not, to offer to teach her to knit once she's feeling better. Who knows if she'll take me up on that offer, but in the process, I realized that just as Jesus instructed his disciples to teach men (and women) to fish, as soulful knitters, we also have an opportunity to spread the joy and comfort we gain from our craft, as well as the love of God, with other women we meet along the way.

    The other thing God placed on my heart is the opportunity we have to reach out into our respective communities and find the women we're to bless with these chawls by keeping our eyes and ears open to what's happening in our own back yards. So, I'm asking you to be the eyes and ears of SKM. If you read or hear about women who are survivors of sexual and/or domestic violence that we might be able to bless with a shawl, please let me know. Of course, there are many more women who fit this category than we can knit possibly shawls for, so sadly, I won't be able to fulfill every request, but we'll do what we can. When you submit a request, please provide as much information as you can about the situation, as well as contact information.

    And of course, in order to make this happen, please continue to send your yarn donations - no amount of yarn is too small. We receive new yarns, but we also receive partial skeins and even small balls of yarn leftover from various knitting projects. I can't think of a better stash-buster, can you? My only caveat on yarn is that I've found that chenille-type yarns don't work well for the shawls. I think because they're knit with larger needles (to compensate for the various gauges of yarns in each shawl), the chenille yarns don't seem to hold their shape as well and often create holes in the shawls. Other than that, all yarns are welcome! For those who've sent yarn before, please note the address change posted in the bottom right-hand corner of the main page.

    Thanks again for all of your encouragement, prayers and donations. I know that God is going to use this ministry in amazing ways this year!

    Wednesday, January 10, 2007

    Shawl Ball

    Finally! It's taken me forever (almost), but I'm finally back on track with preparing kits for my wonderful volunteers who are helping me knit prayer shawls. We distributed several last year, which were wonderfully received, and I hope to be able to distribute many more this year.

    Why did it take so long to get them done? I'm so glad you asked! Yarn is being generously donated by individuals and yarn companies from all over the country. In order to utilize all of the beautiful colors, textures, gauges and quantities of yarn received, the shawls are made by using varying lengths of yarns. Each prayer shawl uses as many as 100 different yarns, and needless to say, no two are exactly alike.

    Although it's certainly not difficult, it's a very tedious process to wind the yarn as it comes in to make handling easier, then to select the colors and textures to be used (it's semi-random, but I've learned the hard way that some combinations look much better together than others), and then there's cutting the yarns into different lenghts, tying the lengths together, and winding them into new balls for knitting. I'm making myself tired just describing the process! LOL. Anyway, thanks in large part to my daughter who was home for the holidays, we were able to make 40 "shawl balls" which are going out to Knitting Angels this week.

    Just the other day I thanked God for bringing the knitters who have so joyously offered to knit these shawls. Then I prayed that He would lead me to the women that He wants to bless with them. Last night, while attending at a reception at church, I met a wonderful woman who just happens to work for a local non-profit that works with women who are transitioning from domestic violence shelters into new housing. I'm sure it was no accident that we ended up sitting next to each other. As we talked, she told me about a woman she's working with who suffered unspeakable horrors at the hands of her husband. As I heard just the barest details of her testimony (which is absolutely amazing), chills ran up my spine and I knew that God had answered my prayer. I will be taking a prayer shawl to church on Sunday, which will be delivered to her next week.

    Sometimes I fall back into the old, and very unproductive, habit of worrying... How will I ever be able to knit enough prayer shawls to get them to even a tiny fraction of the women who need them? How will I know who to give them to? Will I have enough yarn? Will I be able to afford all the postage? Without fail God always reminds me, simply but firmly, that He is in control. This is His ministry, not mine... and that if I will do my part, which includes allowing Him to do His, He will.

    Wednesday, January 03, 2007

    Simple Abundance

    Now I remember why "Simple Abundance" is one of my favorite books. This daily devotional is a great pratical reminder of how I want to live my life. I've been toying around with the wording for a personal mission statement to guide me during the year. After reading today's message in Simple Abundance, I realized that I don't need to recreate the wheel, Sarah Ban Breathnacht describes it better than I ever could.

    The term "Simple Abundance" says it all. defines these two words as follows:

    simple: not elaborate or artificial; unassuming; not complicated or complex, and Sarah adds clarity of form and thought.

    abundance: an extremely plentiful or oversufficient quantity or supply; an overflowing fullness; wealth

    Using these definitions as a basis, Sarah defines simple abundance as "an inner journey, a spiritual and practical course in creative living, a tapestry of contentment." That's awesome!

    That simple definition contains so much insight. It's an inner journey, meaning that it is ours and ours alone, a journey of our choosing, it comes from within us and is not predicated on external events. We can embark on this inner journey regardless of our external circumstances. We don't need to wait until the bills are paid, the kids are grown, we get married (or divorced), we get that new job. We can embark on this journey NOW.

    It's both spiritual and practical. It's interesting that both words are included here. So often people focus on spirituality, but they forget that it's faith and love in action that matters. We're talking about a lifestyle, not a concept here.

    I love the word creative. As a wanna-be artist, anything that involves creativity definitely has my attention. But what's great about that word in this context for me is that not only does it inspire me to live my dream of filling my life and home with "art", made by me and by others, but it also reminds me that God and I together are the artists of my life as well. God has given me the opportunity, the resources, and the desire to create a life that is pleasing both to Him and to me.

    Here's what Sarah has to say about Simple Abundance:

    At the heart of Simple Abundance is an authentic awakening, one that resonates within your soul; you already possess all you need to be genuinely happy. The way you reach that awareness is through an inner journey that brings about an emotional, psychological, and spiritual transformation. A deep inner shift in your reality occurs, aligning you with the creative energy of the Universe. Such change is possible when you invite Spirit to open up the eyes of your awareness to the abundance that is already yours.

    ... [There are] six threads of abundant living which, when woven together, produce a tapestry of contentment that wraps us in inner peace, well-being, happiness, and a sense of security. First there is gratitude. When we do a mental and spiritual inventory of all that we have, we realize that we are very rich indeed. Gratitude gives way to simplicity - the desire to clear out, pare down, and realize the essentials of what we need to live truly well. Simplicity brings with it order, both internally and externally. A sense of order in our life brings us harmony. Harmony provides us with the inner peace we need to appreicate the beauty that surrounds us each day, and beauty opens us to joy. But just as with any beautiful needlepoint tapestry, it is difficult to see where one stitch ends and another begins. So it is with Simple Abundance.

    Pick up the needle with me and make the first stitch on the canvas of your life. Invite Spirit to open up the eyes of your inner awareness. Be still and wait expectantly, knowing that in the warp and woof of your daily life as it exists today are the golden threads of a simply abundant tomorrow.

    Now that's the way to start the New Year!

    Monday, January 01, 2007

    A Challenge for the New Year

    Happy New Year!

    It's that time of year again. The time when we wake up with a long (or maybe not so long) list of New Years resolutions, things we're going to do differently, things we're going to get right this year. Whether our goal in prior years has been to lose weight, to get out of debt, to get a raise, to find a new job, to find Mr. Right or lose Mr. Wrong, I bet it's safe to say that they share a similar pattern. Most of us are making the same or similar resolutions year after year - and that's because we're unable to fulfill them. In fact, studies show that most of us have given up on our ambitious goals and fallen back into old habits by March.

    Are we bad people? No. Are we lazy and undisciplined? Perhaps, I know I can be. But probably not as much as we've led ourselves to believe. I think the truth beneath our inability to hold firm to our New Years resolutions lies in our approach to the process. Simply put, the process by which we set our goals often sabatoges our ability to successfully meet them.

    That's the bad news. But because it's the goal-setting process that stumps us, and because they are OUR goals and WE set them, we have the power to transform the process and thereby increase the likelihood of our success.

    I'm sure you've heard the old saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. As Susan Powter would say, let's "stop the insanity" and try something new this year.

    This is my year of KISS (Keep It Simple Sweetheart), so in that spirit, I'm implementing a simple 4-point plan for meeting my goals this year:

    1. Put first things first. It sounds simple, but it's not. First of all, I'm constantly amazed at how many people don't have specific goals or clearly articulated core values that govern their lives. When you're not clear on where you're headed, how do you know how to get there? How do you know when you've arrived? What's really important to you? If you're not sure, please do yourself a huge favor and take the time now to figure that out. Once you do, I promise, life becomes so much simpler. Once you've clearly identified your core values and priorities, and made a commitment to living in accordance with them, decisions like how you'll spend your time, your energy, and even your money become second-nature. When faced with choices, you'll start to choose those that are consistent with your values. And the more values-consistent choices you make, the more closely aligned and balanced you'll find your life to be. If you've ever had your "colors done", you know how much easier shopping for clothes and accessories became almost instantaneously once you knew which color palette was yours, because you no longer wasted time trying on (or even looking at) clothes in colors that don't suit you. It's the same principle.
    2. Identify and maximize synergies. I spent a lot of time clarifying my goals and values in 2006 and was pleasantly surprised to realize that there were lots of areas of overlap. In fact, because my overriding mission is to live my life for God, I discovered that my 4 main areas of focus - spiritual, mental, physical and social - were all interrelated. Take Soulful Knitting Ministries, for example. It was a no-brainer for me to find a way to turn what had once been a hobby that I loved, into something much more. Through this ministry we are reaching others in need through our knitting and our encouragement, both with the finished items and the prayerful process of creating them. And even when I knit for myself, I often pray, meditate or spend quality time with other knitters. It's the ultimate two-fer, several times over!
    3. Take small steps. One of the biggest sure-fire ways of sabotaging our success is to set huge goals. Don't misunderstand, big dreams are very important, but in order to be realized, they need to be tackled in manageable steps. When we decide that we're going to change our lives overnight - lose 50 lbs, stop drinking coffee cold-turkey, de-clutter and reorganize the entire house in a weekend - the task often seems so big, so overwhelming, that we either scare or exhaust ourselves out of it before we even get started! Remember the saying that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step? It's true. Rather than focusing on the HUGE end goal, try focusing on the first step instead. If you want to drink more water, which sounds easier: "Starting today, I'm going to drink 64 oz. of water every day" or "Starting today, I'm going to drink one small glass of water every day". Once you start drinking the one small glass each day, I bet you'll find it wasn't so bad after all. In a few days or weeks, you'll probably be ready to go for a bigger glass, and then maybe two glasses. The same theory applies to exercise, giving up coffee or cigarettes, and Bible study. Which do you think is more benefecial, small goals and small successes or big goals and no success?
    4. Create a rewards system. I did some seasonal retail work this Christmas and was surprised to see how many people used credit cards for all sorts of purchases. Even people I know personally, who I knew didn't need to use credit were using their plastic. Why? Because of the rewards programs offered by the credit card companies. I am not at all a proponent of credit card debt, but I do understand now why people who can and do pay off their credit card balances every month are charging practically everything in order to benefit from the various reward programs. If it works for Visa and MasterCard, I'm betting that we can create our own rewards systems that work equally well for us. As you set your small goals, try setting up small rewards for yourself when you meet them. This doesn't have to be (and probably shouldn't be) anything fancy, but it should be something enjoyable that you can look forward to in celebration of a job well-done... some extra knitting time, a few extra minutes over a cup of hot tea in the morning, a long hot bubble bath, a glass of wine. Only you know what motivates you. Make it fun. And of course, be sure to plan for some bigger rewards when you ultimately reach the end goal.

    So, there's no better time than today to get started. With some focus, some planning, some commitment and of course, with prayer, you're on your way to having your best year yet! I know I am.

    Please feel free to share your goals/plans for the new year here. If you decide to try any of the suggestions I'd offered, I'd love to know if you find them helpful. And as always, if you have other suggestions, please share.

    My prayer is that each one of us will receive all of the love, joy, peace and abudance that our hearts can hold in 2007.