More on the De-cluttering

My most recent efforts on the de-cluttering task has been centered around finishing projects. I started by sitting in my rocking chair in my bedroom and making a mental list of works in progress. I had 16 items before I even paused to look around the room from container to tub to box and figure out what was inside. Let’s see if I can recreate that list here: 1. yellow and green afghan, 2. multicolored afghan, 3. blue and white beanie, 4. giraffe dishtowel, 5. calf dishtowel, 6. cat dishtowel, 7. pig dishtowel, 8. knit blanket, 9. kid pj’s, 10. pile of torn pants, 11. Christmas welcome crewel, 12. stack of baby blankets, 13. stack of blankets (Vic. material), 14. Smurf crewel, 15. t-shirt rug, 16. fix doll–make clothing….and the list goes on.

broken doll

Fixed doll

I ended up completing #9 and #16 except for the clothing part. I am still trying to make wearable patterns, but I found an unfinished pillow that will turn into a bed for the doll and found some blocks from that fleece blanket project which is not even on the list that can be used to make a doll blanket. I have changed my attitude from completing projects to eliminating clutter. While I was finishing up the pj’s, I realized that since I already had black thread in the machine, it would be a good time to fix up James’ wind pants. The sewing let loose on the zippers at the bottom of the legs, and the hems were a mess because they were too long. The result is that he now has another pair of pants for his morning workout and I don’t have to figure out where to store those pants while cutting them up for something useful.

pajama pants finished

Drawstring

I want to show the pajama pants separately. These were started two or three Christmas breaks ago, but we never got them finished. I was trying to help Victoria with a few things she had started, but did not know how to finish. She was never taught how to read a pattern and some things did not make sense. Pants can be difficult, I even had myself off at one point here. They were already cut and the inseam was finished, but they were packed away all this time. Before I finished off the waist band, I realized that without someone to measure, I didn’t know how tight to make the elastic. I ended up putting two small button holes in the front facing of the waistband, which was just the top folded over. The pants now have elastic and a drawstring. I am really excited. Now I know how to do this and can do it again and again. Maybe….

The best part of this story for me is the de-clutter part. With the work of this day besides the pj’s and doll that will go to two children, I was able to put a pair of pants back in the drawer, empty two spools of thread (two black spools were really near the end), eliminate a piece of elastic and one shoe string from my stash. And, I will eventually get a few more items out the door with the doll accessories, more on that later. All in all Tuesday was a great day. Besides that I have made a few rows of progress on those afghans. Hopefully they will get finished yet. Ya!!!

Message of Nov. 12 Preparing for Christ

Pew candles

Nativity set

I have not posted my messages consistently. I sometimes am not sure that I should share them as publicly as this blog might. I am still in the learning phases and not sure if what I say is always on track. At any rate, here is the one from a few weeks ago. The picture was from this last week when we decorated the church for Advent.

The scriptures used were: Matthew 25:1-13, Amos 5:18-24 and I Thessalonians 4:13-18. The title was “Preparing for Christ.”

Some of you can probably tell from the guests we have with us this morning that we have had a busy weekend. Actually for me it started Thursday, and I am almost embarrassed to tell you this one because you might have second thoughts about me continuing here in this capacity. On Thursday morning I went with James to school thinking that I was to substitute for the Family and Consumer Science teacher. I originally thought that I was to go in on Thursday and Friday, but James kept asking me why I thought it was for both days since there was no school on Friday. That should have been my clue, but I didn’t pay attention. The secretary who makes the calls for substitutes was out of the office, and I didn’t want to bother anyone else, so I just went in. We were there a little before 8 and as I was waiting in the teacher’s work area for the secretaries substitute to get there to give me the information and a key to the room, and who walks in but the teacher that I thought I was replacing. I had the wrong day. I was there a week early, and yes this coming week, I will be there for her both Thursday and Friday. I felt rather foolish, but I was also relieved because I felt like someone had just given me a day, a whole day to do whatever I wanted to do.

I ended up going home and getting to work. I went to my office and began sorting little nooks and crannies and piles of this and stacks of that, and I actually tossed out and cleared out and rearranged things that I have not touched in about 5 years. Let me say, it felt good. I was finally in “the mood” to let go and clear it out. I also cleaned off the top shelf of my computer desk and of the bookcase in the room and on one I put the pictures of the grandchildren I have baptized and on the other, I put my collection of angels. Part of this plan was to get a jump on decorating for Christmas, and it was fun.

On Friday with James home from school in celebration of Veteran’s Day, he and I spent the entire day getting the house ready for our company. We cleared and cleaned and dusted and washed and even rearranged a little to make sure that there would be places for cribs and toys and bottles and all the things that come with little ones and the adults they bring with them. In fact by the time the day was over, we even put one of the vehicles out of the garage so they could drive in and no little one would have to be taken out of the car and subjected to that awful wind we had going on Friday. Come to think of it we also set out more of our seasonal decorations in the living and dining rooms, and even had a pot of homemade vegetable soup on the stove for supper. It was a grand day of preparation, and we were both pretty wiped out tired when it was over.

I would bet that any one of us in this room can think of times when they went all out getting ready for someone coming to their home for a weekend or a holiday. We all take the time to do at least a little something extra in anticipation of the visit. Even if we don’t need to redo rooms or areas of our homes, there is always something that we do in an effort of preparedness for our guest. We treat those visits as something special; at least I get that impression from listening to what I hear people say about those visits.

Our story in Matthew today is somewhat similar in that the 10 women, who are the focus of this story, are getting ready to see someone special. This is not a case of someone coming to their home, but instead they are waiting for someone to pass by so they can join in going to a special event. They are waiting for the bridegroom to walk past them so they can follow along to the wedding and attend the wedding feast. This is a big deal, and even if we know nothing about the procedures for the weddings or the status of the people in the days of Jesus, this story alone gives you the idea of the importance of this event. Simply put there are 10 bridesmaids waiting to go into the wedding feast with the bridegroom. He is delayed for whatever reason and they fall asleep as they are waiting. When the groom comes they grab their lamps and their oil and follow him, except that only 5 have the extra oil they need, while the other 5 have not made the effort to get their oil and they end up asking the others for help and they are turned down.

This could be a rather confusing story. If we are to think of this story as Jesus being the bridegroom and any of us being the 10 waiting for him to come and take us to the feast which is inside the doors of heaven, our question today becomes, what is it about this lamp that we have that needs to be ready? The lamp in essence is our faith/us that needs to be ready. This extra oil that goes in the lamp is not something we can borrow from someone else as the doors to the wedding feast open. We need to have ourselves, our beliefs, our lives in order when the time comes for that wedding feast to begin. This is true either for the end of time, or the end of our time. It isn’t something we can decide or change or prepare after the time comes, it is something we need to do—now.

Again this week there have been events that have—let’s just say given me pause. And though I have been bothered by the events, I have been bothered even more by certain reactions to these events. I will explain: This past week on Wednesday the Ministerial Association met here and after a few of us had lunch together. As we were visiting afterwards, I asked the others what they felt about the church shooting in Texas in terms of having someone either inside or outside of the building on guard with a gun. As much as I was shocked and saddened by the reports that someone would walk into a church and kill people, I was equally shocked to hear one of the reporters asking why or where were the people who were supposed to be standing guard with guns of their own.

Since that day, I have considered how vulnerable everyone in the pews here would be. Then I remembered how we dedicated the doors. I had been very intentional about making sure the words said the doors were there to keep out the cold and the rain, but they were also to open wide to welcome the people inside. I don’t know how you prepare for a thing such as that but let me just say I don’t think that I am in favor of having our ushers or anyone in our building on guard, packing a weapon.

The other words that blew me away this week were in regard to the person running for an office and being accused of inappropriate relations with a young girl many years ago. I do not want to debate the truth or untruth of the accusations or even the right or wrong of the possible event, but in the firestorm of comments afterwards to have someone compare that supposed relationship to the relationship of Mary and Joseph to me is nothing short of sacrilege.

Now perhaps for us, here in the place that Hamlin Garland called the Middle Border in this area of the northern plains, maybe we are sheltered from all those things happening in Texas and Alabama and Hollywood and almost everywhere along the coasts where the biggest of cities are. Maybe we don’t have any of those “crazy” things going on. Maybe we can just keep the news turned off and go about our quiet little lives and not think about any of these things… And maybe in truth there is not a thing we can do about either of the two events I mentioned in particular other than offer up a prayer. But, we certainly need to consider how we reach out to those in our own family and community who are hurting, and people hurt in so many ways. We also need to consider what we do to seek justice for those around us. Do we stand up to those who would run over the weakest around us, or do we help those in need by giving them what help we can even if it is pointing them to the proper agencies or outreach programs.

The scripture lessons leading us to Advent (and the proclamation of John the Baptist—prepare the way of the Lord) this year are not so easy to hear. This parable about the 10 Bridesmaids with the idea of preparedness is just the beginning. Jesus in those days leading up to his crucifixion is trying to prepare the disciples for what is to come. In the days of the early Christian church, as the stories of Jesus’ life on earth are passed on to others and are finally written down for generations after—for us, the belief is very strong that Jesus will return almost immediately. The apostles, even Paul, wanted to instill the idea of being ready for Christ’s return. Now here we are 2,000 years later and we are still waiting. Some of the commentaries on this scripture lesson would have us think in terms of what we can do to make life better for others. The bottom line is that Christ says we don’t know the day or the hour and we are to have our lives, our faith, our commitment and our relationship with God in order. But we can’t stop there, perhaps we can’t repent for our friends or family, we can’t commit for them or have that relationship with God in their stead, but we can be an example, a witness and the Christian friend who cares and prays for them. Let’s go this week as examples of preparing our lives not just for the upcoming season where we celebrate the coming of the baby Jesus, but preparing our lives for the Christ who came to be our Savior. Amen!

Roger, Roger and more Roger with one Sophia and lots of birds…

Geese Nov. 2017

I am in school again today and have a free hour. I have the laptop with me and have been working on a few things, but thought it might be ok to take a break and post a few pictures of the cats just for fun. When I got to looking at them and cropping out some of the bad background, I came to notice that most of the pictures are of Roger, in fact they all are except for one. It could be that Roger is favored, or the truth could be that Sophia will never sit still long enough for the camera to focus. I did throw in one picture of the geese on the lake in Eureka on Wednesday. The entire back third of the lake was white with a few spots of grey. Most of the geese coming through are snows, but there are a few Canadians mixed in. The sound is unreal. I could hear them in the church office with all the doors and windows closed.

 

De-cluttering My Way

I am so excited about the work I finally did last week in my bedroom/craft room and in my office. It happened because Jessica was coming home with the twins for a weekend, and we were not really sure where to put them. OK, so that is not really true. We had planned to put them in my room because it is the largest, but I had it so messy that it was actually hard for me to function there. And if you need to see any proof of all that scroll back to October 17, 2017 to the post titled: Declaring War on Clutter, sort of!

So, everything is put into a can or a box or a tote, and they are even labeled so that I know where to find things without opening up everything. I fixed, as in sewed the stack of items without buttons or torn and returned them to the drawers and closets where they belonged. That was a good feeling. I have also been working on my Works in Progress items in the crochet department. Hopefully I will get to the sewing on the “to do” list by Monday or Tuesday. I even threw away the scraps of yarn that were too small to use for anything. In the past I saved them and set them out for the birds to use in their nests, but they never took them, so into the landfill they go.

So, the cleaning was thought up because of the pending visit, but it was not the actual trigger of my de-cluttering frenzy, which is still going on, Hurrah!!!

Baptism display

What actually happened is that I thought I was scheduled to sub on Thursday and Friday of last week. I got up on Thursday morning, got dressed and ready, and went along with James to school only to see the lady I was covering for in the building. I had the right day but the wrong week; I am subbing today. Instead of being super upset, I took it as the gift of a free day to do whatever I wanted to do. I went home, went to my office and began to sort. I sorted books into a spot in the bookshelf. I put items into the file cabinet and the desk drawers where they should have been in the first place. I sorted so much that I even put up the pictures of the twins’ baptism and Ana’s baptism on the top of the bookshelf. Those are the three children that I have baptized since beginning in ministry…well since ever. Duh!

Angels

I also cleared off all the items from the top of the computer desk and put up my display of Christmas angels. At first I was wondering why I put them there, and then it hit me that what better inspiration to write my messages than a bunch of angels. These angels have either been gifts from family or friends for Christmas or were things that I picked up at auction sales in $1. boxes. I think that the only one I bought for myself is the one on the far right in the back. Both the blue one and the green one belong to a daughter and the two little reindeer don’t really fit the theme, but they match in color and are staying with the angels rather than moving them to the Santa display.

The plant stand in my office.

Mostly I sorted and tossed little sticky notes of paper and sheets of things that were no longer relevant. I also found an empty shoe box and filled it with the Christmas, birthday and cards of congratulations from my installation. That was set aside to make myself a scrap-book later. I was really happy to fill the garbage so full. I got so excited that I even cleared out a stack of old magazines and reduced that by nearly half. I also found a pile of old manuals for nearly every appliance around. We even found the one for the washer and dryer that we had to toss this summer. They were given to us by James’ parents on our wedding. I wish they were still with us. That set worked far better than what I have now. Oh well… So, this is all for now. All I know is that I am happy about what I was able to clear out, and that I only tossed out the items that really had no further value for me. I refuse to toss just to toss, but it is time to go. Hope you are having a great day!!

Twins Visit

Marshall, Grandma and Lily. They were looking at their mother afraid she might leave them with me. Ha!!

This past weekend our twin grandchildren came for a visit. They brought their mother and aunt with them, but of course they were the focus of the time together. I took a few pictures but not really that many on the camera that I mostly use for the blog, so the only one I will share for now is me holding them. Coincidently they were 7 months old this Saturday. I think maybe this picture was taken on Sunday just before they went home. They were really good for us on Saturday when their mother had to go to a Farmers Union County meeting in Linton. It was probably because they were still tired from not sleeping on Friday night when their mother was tired and needed her rest. It is always good to have the grandchildren and even the girls around the house. It is even better because it forces us to get things cleaned up and this time, I really went through my room and stacked up the mess into neat piles rather than clutter all over. I am so amazed at how tidy everything is today that I am not really sure what to do with myself. I actually did a little sweeping and picking up just to make sure it doesn’t get out of hand again. I also put up some more of the Christmas stuff, but that is a post for another time. I think it is nearly time to head to school and pick up James so we can go out for the evening. Today is the 36th Anniversary of our first date. I am not sure if he even remembered that. Maybe we can go some place fun to eat. Take care!!

Message on Sunday, Nov. 5: Our dedication Sunday

The scriptures used were: Matthew 23:1-12, I Thessalonians 2:9-13 and Micah 3:5-12. The title of the message was, “Humble Service.” Again, this was my written script, but probably not exactly what was said.Those of you who know me very well know that one of my favorite television shows is The Voice. It might be because I like listening to music, and it might be because it was a show that James and Paulina and I watched together during that time when we were living in Linton, and it reminds me of what was a much simpler time in our lives.

One of the mainstays of that series is Blake Sheldon, and he has recently come out with a new album. He was on the Today Show on Halloween as a surprise concert singer, and he sang one, of his new songs, which is about thinking back in time to a simpler life, and the underlying issue was that the speaker of the song was really talking about being poor. I don’t know if he wrote it, or if someone wrote it for him, but before he sang it, he told the audience to listen closely to the words. Later that day I read the Upper Room devotional, and it was about a woman whose family had been homeless, and she wrote about how she was so ashamed of being around people because she was afraid they would recognize that she had once stood on a street corner begging for food.

It made me stop to think of all the stories, especially the frontier and the immigrant stores, which I have read over the years about people who struggled financially and eventually made it through to better times. Maybe I noticed these things more this week because I have been binging on those Hallmark Christmas movies, but it seems that at this time of year, those stories of tough times are just so much more in your face, so much more poignant, and maybe for me, so much more special. Maybe it is because I can relate to those stories with some of my own experiences, at different times in my life. OK, so not the homelessness part, but there have been times that have been struggles. Of course it could be because I, at least, am anticipating the coming weeks when we begin to reread, relearn, relive that very special story about a couple who went to Bethlehem with only a donkey for transportation then had to sleep in a stable where the oh so young woman delivered a baby on a bed of hay.

I think that tendency of mine to dwell on the specialness of those times drives some of my family members, especially my children crazy. I just can’t get over the idea that Christmas gifts shouldn’t be all about how much you spend and who gets the fanciest, newest thing. I do think that I read the Laura Ingalls Wilder books about how they survived Christmas way too many times, especially the parts about how their father would make something in the barn as a surprise for their mother, or she would sew the girls a rag doll from fabric scraps with button eyes as a treat. Of course if I would have ever gotten one of those sort of things finished, I think my girls might have appreciated it, but with me it is always on the “to do” list and never quite wrapped up finished and under the tree by the time we open gifts.

Humble times might make for better stories, for fonder memories for some of us. I think it is because the things we earned or were given during those times came with more sweat and more work on our part, and that is why they are cherished more. I just believe that things that come too easily are not appreciated quite as much. Maybe I am off base, but that is how my brain works and that is why it makes me think that part of what Jesus was telling the Pharisees is that they need to be more humble in their attitudes. And especially they need to do more for what they have and expect a little less from those around them. It seems they have this sickening air of entitlement around them.

We have talked about this passage before, about how the Pharisees were so interested in their place in society, and how much they earned both in terms of monetary compensation and in terms of status and respect and ability to wield power over others that they failed to fulfill the position that they had been granted as the spiritual leaders of the people. It reminds me of the favorite saying of my aunt’s father who used to say, “They are so religious, they forgot God.” Hopefully none of us knows anyone like that, or that none of us ever becomes like that. In verse 5 of Matthew 23 that we read today, Jesus is quoted as saying, “They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long.”

So, I couldn’t stand it anymore, I did an image search for a phylactery, and it is this little square thing that looks like a toy box. It is worn on the top of the head and held on with a strap sort of like putting a little box on a leather strap that you wear as a headband. The fringes are the tassels that come out of your scarf, which they put over their head and it is long enough to come down onto their shoulders. At this point I put on a visual aid to give a better idea of what I meant. I am guessing that the longer fringes and the larger phylacteries were a little more spendy, and so it showed that they had more money and status, they were better than the other poorer people. They could afford more. It reminds me a little of A Christmas Carol when Bob Cratchit’s family had to settle for a stuffed goose for Christmas until old Scrooge opened up his purse strings and bought them a magnificent turkey.

Matthew ends this passage by giving us Jesus’ words, “All who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Today I can’t help but think of just how much the Pharisees had. I don’t just mean in status or money or power, but in learning. They had the manuscripts, they had the law, and the words passed down from Moses. They had the temple with all of its; what we would today call artifacts, they were rich if not by their monetary standards alone, but they were rich in the history and the academics of their faith. They had it all, and yet they ignored it for their own self importance. They had so much to share with the people who came to the temple and all they were concerned about was if the people who came there were giving enough money to the coffers. The Pharisees were only thinking about how the people could benefit them.

I guess that is where the reading from Micah fits. He warns of the ruin that will come on the people of Jerusalem as he speaks of the prophets who do not carry out the directions that God gives to them. Instead they only pretend to do their duty when they are compensated or bribed, and there is nothing just or fair about what they do.

Paul is careful in his letter to the Thessalonians to remind the church there that when he was with them, he did not expect compensation for teaching them the gospel or about the love of Christ, but instead worked with them to earn the food they ate and the shelter they shared. That is a theme we read often in the letters of Paul, that the leaders are not to lift themselves up above the status of the people, but instead are to be teachers that work with the people in learning about the love and sacrifice that Christ offers up in order for us all to be brothers and sisters in God’s kingdom. Before his conversion on the road to Damascus, Paul was likely one of those Pharisees, who wore phylacteries and long fringes, but because of God’s call and revelation to him, he was changed and understood the truth about how he acted and how he needed to act. Paul was humbled.

Quilts completed in 2017

Today as we offer up the quilts that we have finished off with our hands to be given to those in need, and as we dedicate the door that has been newly purchased and those that have been repainted, we offer them not in the spirit of our own goodness and status, but in humility that God would look on us as participating in the spirit of being “the church.” As we go through the rest of this month, Mission Fest and Thanksgiving in a couple of weeks then Advent and the Christmas Season right around the corner, may we enter this time in a spirit of humble service for our God.

I have been trying to think of fresh new ways to celebrate the upcoming holidays, and I believe the scripture lessons of today may have helped me understand better which direction or at least how to look at both Thanksgiving and Christmas. The story should not be about how many presents are piled under the tree or how much food is piled on top of the table. The real meaning of the season is sharing the love that God has bestowed on us with all of those around us. And sometimes that sharing means a smile, and sometimes it means a meal or a blanket. Mostly it means that we walk humbly with God and share the love that Christ has for us all. Let’s remember to add that to our list of things to do this upcoming holiday season. Amen!

Frosty morning…

This is what I could see from my upper porch this morning. I tried to capture it better than this picture does, but the sun was so bright it was hard to know what I was getting until I up loaded. I should have spent my time cleaning the bathroom or taking the dead leaves off the plants that we brought into the house from outside this summer. I am just so tired of dragging those plants in and out and trying so hard to keep them alive. I don’t know that I will have all those plants next summer and I don’t think that I will be keeping any in the house anymore other than a select few. I am about to toss all of the geraniums because they look terrible and it just seems to bring plant lice into the house, and actually, I have had enough. I think that maybe I have outgrown my indoor plant days. Oh, yes I will keep the aloe-vera and the kalanchoes that seem to multiply like guppies around here, but other than the snake plants and a few others, the rest are out the door within the next day or two. I am really just so over house plants.

I might be over some other things too. I am tired of piles of things that serve no purpose. I will give you an update on what gets tossed later this week. I can report that yesterday after I returned home from the shopping trip I went on after my Aunt Glenda was finished at the dentist, I did some tossing in the pantry. There was a jar of syrup that is used to make candy, like the old stuff from what we used to use on our pancakes when we were kids. I think I moved it with us when we came from Jamestown in 1999, I am not kidding either. That went out. There was also some unused bags of this and that from years ago. I decided if we had not eaten it in a year, out is was going. I might be throwing a few more of those items out later today.

My next room is going to be this office that I work in. I was in here most of the day, and I am about sick of seeing things piled on the ground while there are empty shelves I cannot reach because of the junk in the way. I have a plant stand that is getting filled before the night is over with some of the plants that get to stay. Then the books that were arranged on it once upon a time are being put back in order. I will also toss all the pencils and pens that no longer work and will go down to only two pencil holders here. Next are the pads of paper, they are going in a container to be pulled out one at a time for actual use not just stacking up.

I have been slowly putting up the holiday decorations and I am getting a little weary about all the crap I have to deal with first in order to find a place to set out what I would like to put on display. Today was my only day this week to get anything done in the house and I spent the entire day working on the songs from now until the end of Christmas. At least I am nearly finished with that business. I have two Sundays left to choose and one is going to be the service of Lessons and Carols, so that will be interesting. We are holding that on Christmas Eve day which is a Sunday this year. So, no extra service to plan, which is actually sort of sad. I may have to make up for it by doing something fun the following Sunday, since it is New Year’s Eve Day, or maybe just more fun stuff during the Lenten Services. Not sure yet. Anyway, thanks for listening to me crab about the loss of a day, well sort of. I can still get a few things finished. Mostly I was not feeling the best, so that always slows down the progress of the day. Teach me to order something different when I eat out. I guess my digestive system is getting old and mostly boring. Here is to hoping you are having a good day. Also prayers and thoughts with those who have lost loved ones in Texas.

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