Kelly’s bedroom under the eaves of her house had sloping ceilings and a tiny doorway into a creepy attic crawlspace. I was jealous because she had her own half bath and cable TV. I spent many middle school and high school New Year’s Eves in Kelly’s bedroom, eating microwave popcorn and watching the Times Square Rockin’ New Year’s Eve party on her 13 inch TV screen. Back then, the excitement was in staying up all night and seeing how far we could get into the new year before we crashed.

As I’ve grown older, crashing into the new year takes on a new and more serious meaning.

Some people are approaching 2017 with fear and frustration, but I am choosing to be optimistic and hopeful about the year ahead. I’m excited about the changes I see approaching for my work and family. I want to confront new experiences and move forward with the new lessons I learn. I’m looking forward to pursuing new challenges and welcoming new opportunities to help others.

And I’m choosing to believe that though anything that happens in the future may be out of my hands, God has the whole world within his grasp.

“Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you,” God promises. “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27), “For I am with you always , even until the end of time” (Matthew 28:20).

I am choosing to trust God’s promise that he will never leave nor forsake the people who love and trust in him. We may face many challenges in the year ahead. We may experience uncertainty, confusion and even crises in the new year, but we know God will be with us throughout every moment.

So be still and know that he is God! (Psalm 46:10) I pray this year that you know God’s presence and feel his unending care for you. Be comforted that God is always with us, and he will never change.

What are you looking forward to in 2017? How are you preparing to move forward into the new year?

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I said good-bye at the door of my daughter's kindergarten classroom and headed for the parking lot; but when I looked back, my daughter came running after me, shrieking down the hallway. Her dad and I had just divorced, and my daughter and I were both going through a period of separation anxiety.

The school counselor suggested I allow my daughter to bring something from home, something small and unobtrusive she could wear or keep in a pocket, something to remind her of the loving adults who would still be there for her at the end of the day.

locket-1141737_1920-1In my dresser drawer, I found an old, gold-tone locket necklace, and I put tiny pictures of her dad and me inside. My daughter wore that locket every day of kindergarten, and she stopped chasing me, crying, through the hallways when I dropped her off at school.

Some kids carry teddy bears or old blankets to remind them of home and help them feel secure. Most kids outgrow carrying their security objects around all day.

But many adults still have security objects that we keep near to see and touch. Sometimes we all need a physical connection to our invisible sources of strength and love. img_0503

When I was feeling particularly anxious and insecure, I found my old Cowardly Lion doll and stood him on my dresser to remind me to have courage and keep moving. I hoard quilts that hold memories of special people. I will never part with the Taz doll my husband won for me at the amusement park game stall. And lately, I've started carrying this smooth river stone to remind me of the strength and solidity of God's presence.

img_0640I know all these lockets, dolls, and stones don't hold any special powers. They are not lucky charms, and they possess no magic spells. Our touchstones are merely tangible reminders of the love and safety available to us and the special people who give us comfort and peace.

On first grade picture day, I pulled from the dresser drawer that old, golden locket, now tarnished and tangled. I asked, "Do you want to wear this today?"

My daughter shrugged.

Lockets and stones can never take the place of the love they represent, and once we become secure in that love, the reminders become merely reminders again.

My daughter moved on to wearing necklaces she and her friends made out of safety pins. But I still have that Cowardly Lion doll.

What security objects do your children treasure? What are your own tangible reminders of love?

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The morning was still fairly dark when I walked my daughter to the school bus stop outside our apartment building. All the kids from the apartment complex milled around the parking lot, next to dumpsters and discarded furniture. We shivered in the autumn air. The rising sun glared brilliantly off the frost on the car windshields. When my daughter climbed on board and the bus pulled away, I walked to work through the morning chill with my hands in my pockets and my nose sniffling.

Fall is the foreshadowing of winter. The early darkness and cooling air warn us of the chill and stillness to come. Every fall I feel a sense of drawing in and settling down. I want to feel cozy, to curl up and cocoon; not to avoid the dark and cold, but to enjoy the promise of comfort and warmth.

In preparing for the icy days and nights ahead, I've found a few ways to enjoy and appreciate the changing season:

baby-1331996_1920Make the most of the last nice days by wearing sweatshirts and jackets to play at the park.

Look for free and low-cost indoor entertainment. My daughter and I enjoyed the warm and humid Botanical Center where we stood under the banana trees and counted the geckos clinging to the leaves.

Dig the warm pajamas out of storage, put sleeping bags on the living room floor, and enjoy a slumber party movie night. Make popcorn and use flashlights for lighting.

Buy extra flashlight batteries for possible winter power outages. Check and change batteries in all home smoke detectors.

Bake cookies. Let children help. child-221042_1920

Buy extra shelf-stable food so we're not traipsing to the grocery store during winter storms. I stock up on condensed milk, peanut butter, dry cereal, cans of chili and soup.

Make homemade chili and soup. Try this taco soup recipe.

Buy extra over-the-counter pain reliever and cough medicine so I'm not dragging a kid with a cold to the store in frigid weather.

Have the car's oil changed. Check and rotate tires. Replace wiper blades and fill washer fluid.

Buy extra socks for everyone in the household. Save a couple of pairs to make sock snowmen, following a Youtube tutorial.

Trace fallen leaves onto red, orange, and yellow construction paper. Cut out the shapes to decorate the apartment windows and walls.

Then curl up on the couch together, pull up the blanket or quilt, and snuggle in luxurious warmth. Talk about the autumns and winters, springs and summers of our childhoods. Appreciate this gift of time to connect, be present, and talk quietly.

I hope you all enjoy a cozy, comfortable evening together before resting through the long, cold night and then seeing them off to school in the morning.

How do you enjoy the changing season? How do you prepare for the cold weather ahead?

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Because I had some minor surgery yesterday, I've planned a few days off to focus on activities that are comforting and relaxing. It's nice to be reminded sometimes that life is about more than work and recognition. My plans for the coming week include:

  1. Sleep til 6 every morning and take a nap every afternoon.
  2. Take a long walk with someone who is very special to me.
  3. Eat ice cream with chocolate sauce and whipped cream.
  4. Reread Jane Eyre, the story of a poor nanny who marries her wealthy boss.
  5. Rewatch Pride & Prejudice, the story of a poor farmgirl who marries a wealthy aristocrat. (I see a pattern in my entertainment choices.)
  6. Enjoy unhurried conversation with my daughter and friends who stop by.
  7. Call my old mentor, Vivian, to catch up.
  8. Organize my closet and get some warm, cozy sweaters out of storage.
  9. Start sewing the quilt I'm making from old pajama pants.
  10. Watch the History Channel specials remembering 9/11 and be reminded that life is fragile. I will be grateful for every moment, value the people who are special to me, and recommit to helping others when I can. I will pray for God's peace, grace, and mercy for our world.

How do you spend any time you have for relaxing? What are your thoughts as we remember 9/11 this weekend?

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DeDe works patiently. She has carefully cut out the fabric, rearranged the pieces, and pinned them together in new and unexpected ways. The hum of the sewing machine in rhythmic and soothing. DeDe works slowly to create the quilt that will cover her bed and wrap her in warmth.

Every quilt represents the embrace of a relationship. In a quilt, as in life, we collect scattered pieces and random moments. We stitch together the frayed edges and join with other battered hearts. At last we hold a completed covering of colorful shapes and textures. One day we look back on our lives, and we can see the whole pattern of the time we shared with others.

To construct a quilt, we need a few tools:

IMG_0063Fabric gives warmth, comfort, and color.

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Batting adds softness and depth.

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Tee shirts hold special memories of shared experiences.

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A ruler measures the edges and keeps the seams straight.

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Scissors cut away what doesn't fit.

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A pincushion protects our fingertips from sharp points.

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Thread holds all the parts together.

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And a seam ripper helps us correct our mistakes.

We could invest in expensive fabrics and tools, but we don't have to. We can use what we have available and appreciate that we will always receive what we need.

DeDe works patiently, because a quilt can't be finished in a day. A life can't be built in a year. We work together slowly to join all the pieces and enjoy the intricate tapestries we create.

I'm enjoying the time we spend making this quilt! Keep watching this website to see what happened when these pieces started falling into place.

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What is falling into place for you today? What tools are you using to bring the pieces of your life together?

 

 

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We curled together on the sagging old sofa and pulled the quilt up over our pajamas. We ate popcorn and watched movies on the old 13 inch TV screen. The night outside was black and cold. The house walls were thin and drafty. The quilt had a scratchy blanket backing, but we stayed cozy, safe, and warm beneath it.

I love quilts. Quilting is a metaphor for what God does with our lives. He collects scattered remnants of our hopes and dreams and stitches together a beautiful new tapestry of bright colors and textures.

I've enjoyed making many quilts:

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I made this throw-size flannel for resting and watching TV on long autumn evenings.

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I made this fun floral for my daughter for Christmas.

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These scrappy squares are cut from old blue jeans, sweatshirts, and a flannel nightgown. It now covers the daybed in my office.

I love the softness, coziness, and wrap-around warmth quilts provide; but I love quilts more for all they symbolize.

Quilts are comforting.

Quilts are made for snuggling and snoozing under layers of warmth on long winter nights. They are soft and safe places when the world is hard and dark. Quilts feel like home and haven, family and love.

Quilts are covering.

Quilts are shelter from winter winds and roaring storms. They are symbolic of God's spreading wings, offering refuge and peace. Quilts give protection from the elements that threaten our calm and happiness.

Quilts are memory keepers.

Quilts are visual and tangible reminders of the special people who created them. The quilt with the scratchy backing was made by my daughter's paternal grandmother. I remember Darlene's door was open to everyone, and she faithfully baked cakes and pies for every family gathering. Quilts live forever to tell the stories of the people who have taught us and the lessons we have learned.

As a mentor I am privileged to share what I love with others. I am blessed to be helping my friend DeDe sew a warm and comforting quilt of her own.

Keep watching this site for instructions, tips, and photos of our progress. Check back again soon to see what became of these:

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Do you have a quilt that is special to you? What memories do you keep in the warmth of its embrace?

 

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