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.