Saturday, March 30, 2013

At the Cross

The Easter song that is playing in my heart and my head this weekend: At The Cross by Hillsong

We started to sing this in church a few years ago when I was singing on the praise team. The lyrics stuck with me as we sang it week after week but I haven't thought about them lately until this weekend when the were placed in my heart again. The lyrics are comforting, permission for stillness in a busy world.

"Oh Lord, You've searched me, You know my way.
Even when I fail You, I know You love me."
"Your holy presence, surrounding me.
In every season, I know you love me, I know you love me."
"At the cross I bow my knee, where Your blood was shed for me.
There's no greater love than this. You have overcome the grave,
Your glory fills the highest place, what can separate us now?"
"You go before me, You shield my way.
Your hand upholds me, I know You love me."
"You tore the veil, You made a way, when you said that IT IS DONE!"
"And when the earth fades, falls from my eyes, 
And You stand before me, I know You love me, I know You love me."

The bolded lyrics really stand out to me. They tell a story of acceptance, commitment, protection, and unconditional love. That God knows my every move, and yet He still loves me. We strive so hard to get acceptance from other people, which is normal. As humans we all want to be accepted. But no one in this world knows our every move, our every action, our every thought. God knows EVERYTHING and I can still be assured that He loves me. Despite my failures. Despite my mistakes. 

We transition through life seasons. Emotional seasons such as excitement, joy, sadness, grief, boredom and seasons of life like childhood, adolescence, college, young adulthood, child-bearing and child-rearing, empty nest, retirement. Through every season God loves us. Empathizes with us and never leaves us. Nothing separates us. Nothing.
He goes before us, so there is no reason to ever live in fear. He is our Shield!
And the three words that get me most: He said that "IT IS DONE." No more striving. We are free to receive grace and live in peace. It brings to mind the word complete. 
This Easter I hope you rest in the assurance of God's Love, Protection, Completeness, and Peace.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Sewing Adventures!

FINALLY posting the product of my sewing adventures a few weeks ago. I don't sew often... but my mom and grandma both love sewing. I guess my love for crafting is genetic. My grandma taught me how to sew one weekend when I stayed with her on her old black Singer sewing machine, similar to this one:
image source

I think we made a small little purse with a flap closure and I remember she told me not to sew over my finger.

A few weeks ago, I think Pinterest gave me the sewing itch. It was my roommate's birthday, who also happens to be my sorority Big.... So I went to her Pinterest boards for ideas of what she might like. I had lots of options because she has an astonishing number of pins... 7,603 to be exact! I chose to use this tutorial. Mine looks a little different because I added the ties hanging down.

Final Product: A cute pillow and a happy roommate! 
She even recognized that it was from her Pinterest!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Sticky Note Desk Frame

My supervisor at my internship uses sticky notes ALL the time! Last week was her first week full-time there so I made her a little sticky note holder. I saw it here via Pinterest and it is such an easy gift idea!

I bought a plastic frame from Joann’s for $0.99 (Don’t worry, I had a 20% off coupon on top of that!), and used paper, glue dots, and embellishments I already had.

I cut a piece of background paper the size of the frame. Mine was 3.5×5 inches. You could use any size and mix it up with different sizes and numbers of sticky note pads. You could also include a quote or picture if you used a bigger frame. I used her initial, a piece of ribbon, and a few little flowers, trying to coordinate the paper and decorations with the colors of the sticky notes. I wanted to keep it small so it wouldn’t take up too much room on her desk.
The sticky note pads were attached with glue dots. One in each corner- nice and secure!  It was accompanied with this card!
 These would make great gifts for teachers, college-bound students, and anyone who loves making lists. I guess it would be perfect for someone who is forgetful but I hope you approach this one carefully!

God is Not my Business Partner

Grace has never been easy for me to accept. It’s a hard concept for me to grasp in this business focused, achievement-oriented world. I think the reason grace is hard to accept is because it doesn’t make sense. A phrase that sticks out from high school economics class is this: “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” There are always hidden costs and fees. Always fine print. When something seems too good to be true, we ask, “What’s the catch?” It is hard for us to believe that we can receive grace without any hidden responsibilities for us to fulfill. It’s hard to believe that there is no “catch.”
I have been reading the book of Romans in The Message lately and it explained the concept of grace and God’s promises in an interesting way. In Romans 4, God’s promises are contrasted with a business contract.
“If those who get what God gives them only by doing everything they are told to do and filling out all the right forms properly signed, that eliminates personal trust completely and turns the promise into an ironclad contract. That’s not a holy promise; that’s a business deal.” –Romans 4:14

Thinking about the difference of a contract and a promise, I looked up the definitions and here is what I found:
Contractan agreement between two or more parties for the doing or not doing of something specified.”
Promisea declaration that something will or will not be done, given, etc., by one
Interesting. Am I treating God too much like a business partner rather than my Holy Father? Am I relying too much on myself to earn something that cannot be earned?
Two things stand out to me in those definitions. First, a contract is “between two or more parties.” If God had offered us a business deal, a contract, it would be between the two of us. It would depend on me and God. I would have to hold up my end of the deal. But a promise is made “by one.” Because God has offered us a promise, it depends entirely on Him, not us. Secondly, the definition of a promise emphasizes that something will happen. Not might. Will. It is something we can count on.
The Message goes on to point out that a business deal has lots of fine print. This may be what makes us cautious. We are used to fine print. To details we must obey. With God’s promise, there is no fine print.
I will leave you with this, something I am trying to remember: “…But if there is no contract in the first place, simply a promise- and God’s promise at that- you can’t break it. That is why the fulfillment of God’s promise depends entirely on trusting God and His way, and then simply embracing Him and what He does.” –Romans 4:16

My Crafty Weekend!

I had such a crafty weekend! Something I haven’t had time for in a long time!
I have trouble relaxing and resting, trouble not being productive. Crafts are a good balance for me: fun, expressive, and give me a sense of accomplishment.
I took several snapshots of the craftiness this weekend! Here are a few:

had to got to go here twice! I had a 20% off your TOTAL purchase, INCLUDING sale items the first trip! The second trip was only because I forgot something but there are worse places to have to return… and I still had my 10% off student discount card! — If you are a student anywhere, ask for one of these!
Pink, black, and white fabric, pins, and an online tutorial..

My grandma’s sewing machine… The one my mom learned to sew on!

Sewing isn’t always my craft of choice… but I did really enjoy making this. All straight lines. Not too difficult. And I cut out the fabric on the living room hard-wood floor while getting to spend time with my parents. Bonus!
I can’t reveal what this fabric creation is yet because it is a gift… But I will share a picture of the final product soon and my other two weekend crafts soon!
We also had beautiful weather! A much needed break from the cold and ice. It seems we haven’t had too much snow but lots of freezing rain lately- So I was excited to be able to wear an outfit like this:

No socks! Rolled up jeans! I even wore a pair of my favorite shorts the next day!
And I loved the walk I took with this sweet 5 year old, my niece!

 We had races (she’s fast!), played “don’t step on the crack,” and jumped across some rocks. Fresh air and great conversation!
Can’t wait for spring and summer!

Cottage Cheese Stuffed French Toast

Breakfast food is my favorite.
Problem= With a 7:45 am class 4 days a week, I don’t usually have time to cook a fancy breakfast in the morning.
Solution= Breakfast for lunch.

Here’s a simple recipe for Cottage Cheese Stuffed French Toast. (Not sure if it qualifies as a recipe, more like assembly instructions):
2 pieces of bread
2 egg whites
½ c. cottage cheese
cooking spray
Chopped almonds
  1. Spray a frying pan and heat it to a medium high heat. While that is heating, dump egg whites into a bowl.
  2. Dip your bread into the egg whites letting them absorb a little on each side.
  3. Place the bread in the frying pan and let it cook for a little bit. Then flip. *
  4. Repeat this for the other piece of bread, spraying the pan in between. If you have a bigger pan, you could probably cook both at once.
  5. Scoop half of your cottage cheese onto one piece of bread and place the other on top. Scoop the rest of the cottage cheese on top of that.
  6. Top with blueberries, a drizzle of honey, and chopped almonds.
  7. Enjoy!
*Knowing when to flip things is not my strong point… So I probably flipped it after about 15 seconds, and then flipped it again. Basically flipped it back and forth until it seemed done. As one friend once told me, a job at IHOP is not in my future.

Philanthropy Friday: Sevenly

I’d like to start something here on A Story Unfinished. 
There are lots of great blogs and websites out there doing good in the world. Today I would like to feature a company called Sevenly. Over at Sevenly, they feature a new t-shirt each week designed to support a specific charity. $7 from each sale is donated to charity. You can watch a video about their mission here. What I like about Sevenly is they are constantly featuring a new cause. Everyone has their own struggle. Everyone has different things they are passionate about and causes they support. If you don’t feel strongly about this week’s charity, check back next week- or the week after- and you are sure to find something to which you’d like to contribute. You’ll not only donate to the cause, you’ll get a unique t-shirt to show your support. Need a gift for someone? This could mean a lot to them- getting something that supports a charity they personally care about. The gift is two fold- for them and for someone in need.
They have featured charities that work to solve issues including animal cruelty, sexual exploitation, burn victims, abused/neglected children, poverty, cancer, domestic violence, and homelessness.
Check it out this week or next to support a cause you care about!

The Joy Dare: Giving Thanks When it is Hard to Do

I’ve heard about the concept of a Gratitude Journal for a while now. Being aware of and thankful for the little things in my life, writing them down at night, falling asleep in a state of gratitude. It’s always sounded like a good idea. But I have never really done it for more than a few days. Yesterday, I found Anne Voskamp’s Joy Dare and decided to give it a try. She cites many benefits of daily gratitude and gives prompts for each day- gratitude categories. Most people try to start these things on January 1, at the beginning of the year or at the beginning of a new chapter in their life. But I’m starting on a random day. March 4.
Yesterday’s Prompt was: “3 Gifts Hard to Give Thanks For…” I found this prompt sort of, well, hard. Through this Joy Dare, I do not want to simply give thanks for the normal stuff I would give thanks for… my house, my family and friends, food on the table, and a car to drive. I am grateful for all those things… But if I am going to live a life of gratitude, in a constant state of gratitude, then I am going to have to dive below the surface. This prompt was actually a great one to start on, sending me deep below the surface. It is preparing me to give thanks even when things don’t go my way, even when it seems like there is nothing to be thankful for.
I particularly love that Anne Voskamp says “Joy is a function of gratitude.” How true! It is easy to give thanks when we are happy. Sometimes we wait until we are happy to give thanks. But maybe it works the other way around. I think Anne Voskamp is saying that the more we give thanks, the more joy we will experience and I am willing to give this a try!
So many places in the Bible, it tells us to be thankful and that we always have something to be thankful about. Psalm 118:24 tells us that we should be thankful for the day itself and 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says to give thanks in all circumstances, because God knows what He is doing! James 1:17 tells us that everything good comes from God.
So here’s my first attempt at The Joy Dare. 3 Gifts Hard to Give Thanks For-
1. Homework: It means I am learning and have educational opportunities.
2. My Dead Car Battery: It gave me the experience of dealing with a broken down car, I saw a friend I hadn’t seen in a while on the campus bus, I got to see my dad in the middle of the week, and it forced me to cancel a few things and slow down my life.
3. The Unknown: This one really gives me trouble! But the existence of the unknown gives me the opportunity to trust God more fully.
I also made myself and my roommate “Joy Jars.”

I made them out of clear mason jars and cut up colorful scraps of paper with the intention that the jar will soon become filled with happy written memories and things we are thankful for. The empty jar will soon be filled with color, just as gratitude and joy add color to our lives.

Recent Recipes!

As a townhouse dweller, I am a big fan of the microwave. And the George Forman Grill. But lately, I’ve been trying to cook more and am finding out that some things aren’t that hard. So here is a look at some recent things I have been making:

Quinoa and Black Bean Stuffed Peppers! The best part of this was that I made it with a friend and we got to catch up! So fun! She is an education major and I am a psychology major but we still had so much in common to talk about! Love hearing about other people’s college experiences!

Lentil Soup in the small crock pot! I eliminated the balsamic vinegar because I didn’t have any. Still delicious! So glad I discovered the ease of crock pot cooking!
Non-Recipe Recipes! So simple and easy!
Peanut Butter Coconut Toast and Strawberries. Delicious night snack!

Sweet Potatoes, Cooked Peppers/Broccoli/Mushrooms, Eggs, and Feta Cheese! Sweet potatoes are one of my favorites, and I recently discovered that I like feta cheese! It’s a strong taste!

Looking forward to making more homemade meals when I have time!

The Freedom of Enoughness

So many people (including myself) are constantly searching for something to tell them that they are enough. We want to be able to say:
I am good enough.
I am strong enough.
I am smart enough.
I am rich enough.
I am productive enough.
I am organized enough.
I am interesting enough.
I am funny enough.
I am pretty enough.
I am kind enough.
I am caring enough.
We want to know that we are worth something in this world. We want to know that we measure up.
But what if we removed those middle words. What if we simply said:

I have lived my life always striving to be more, to do more. One day I looked over at a friend’s paper. She was doodling and I saw this simple phrase. It profoundly impacted me. It was something I had never heard or considered before. It was freeing. When we remove the extra words, our worth lies simply in who we are instead of what we do, create, or produce. It is separate from what we say and how we act.
I’m not saying that those things are never important. All I am saying is that they aren’t what determine our value and worth. In fact, some of them may be a byproduct of realizing we have worth. When we know that we are worthwhile people apart from what we do, we are free to act out of love and kindness instead of acting in ways that we think will prove our worth.
I also recently heard the word “enoughness” from Emily P. Freeman. (I recommend her book Grace for the Good Girl to anyone who has struggled with trying to be good enough!) That word enoughness is one I am trying to keep in my mind and heart. It brings me peace. It is freeing.
I’d like to say that I am free from striving, that I live by these words everyday and never stress about measuring up. But that’s not true. As a college student, I am still surrounded with grades, exams, and trying to make it in the professional world. In finding out who I am, what I can contribute, and in making a career for myself. But I am starting to allow myself to rest, a few moments at a time, in the peaceful thought that I am enough. Take a break from striving and working, a break from trying to prove yourself, and think about the fact that God created you. He made the choice not only to create you, but also to plan out all of your days. And when I really think about it, how can I feel like I do not have worth when God thought I was worth the life of His Son?
It’s an amazing fact that I am trying to rest in. And I hope you will, too.

How Not to Be a Writer

I started journaling when I was 8 years old. I have kept journals ever since. Many, many filled notebooks. But I am new to blogging.
In her book, God Never Blinks, Regina Brett wrote, “How not to be a writer: Spend hours pondering over using longhand or shorthand, computer or legal pad, pen or pencil, blue ink or black, Mac or PC…Analyze every idea before you write the first sentence, strive for perfection.” This is exactly what I have done. This is exactly why I haven’t started a blog.
So now I am going to take Regina’s advice on how to be a writer: “If you want to be a writer, write.”
Another wise girl, Stephanie over at The Lipstick Gospel gives this advice:
“Writing doesn’t need to be good and chances are that right at first, it wont be. But what it needs to be is honest. Our writing needs to tell the truth, the best way we can see it.
Perfection is overrated and unnecessary. The important thing is that we show up, that we sit down at our computer and write – that we stay there especially when it’s uncomfortable.”
That doesn’t sound easy. But it sounds real. It sounds authentic. And that is what I desire.