Monday, March 31, 2014

Lenten Photo a Day Challenge - Day 27: Hope

One small word speaks volumes.
 But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you. Psalm 37:9
Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalm 42:5
Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him. Psalm 62:5
As for me, I will always have hope;
I will praise you more and more.
 Psalm 71:14

As the spring takes root around us and the plants begin to green and bloom, may faith also stir in your soul and bring you peace and hope today.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Lenten Photo a Day Challenge - Day 24: Walk

I took my dog for a walk yesterday. Or, more accurately, she took me for a walk.  She is 60 lbs of puppy stubbornness right now when on a leash.  She wants to go at her own pace (very fast followed by stopping in her tracks to sniff at something unseen, but probably gross) and in her own direction (off the road and into the mud and grassy marsh).  God doesn't keep us on a leash, but I imagine we act much like my 8 month old puppy.  We are x number of pounds of human stubbornness from time to time.  For myself, I've tried to rush God and tried to slow Him down with my own plans.  I've wandered from His directed path and gotten muddy.  This isn't anything new to God.  In the book of Jeremiah, God shares through the prophet His view of His children, repeating how they have walked in stubbornness, walked into sideways and not the highway, failed to walk in His law and statutes (Jeremiah7:24, 11:8, 18:15, 44:10).  But that's not how God wants it.  He longs to bring us onto his pathways and keep us from stumbling (Jeremiah 31:9).  In the New Testament, John encourages us to walk in the light, the truth, and in love (1 John 1:7, 2 John 1:4-6).  A few more months and many more walks and I know our puppy will be a pro at walking and jogging alongside me without pulling my elbow apart.  I only hope and pray that I'll be better at walking alongside my God - in His light, truth, and love.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Lenten Photo a Day Challenge - Day 23: Water

Last spring we had some pretty heavy rainstorms around here.  The front of our property slopes down and a large pool of water formed at the bottom.  It is very hard for our daughter to resist puddles and this was a big one.  She could hardly contain her excitement as she begged to go check it out.  When the rain stopped and the sun came out we put on our rain boots and walked down to the pool of water.  Well, I walked.  She ran.  She didn't hesitate to step in.  Then she sat in.  Then she swam in.  She completely immersed herself in that pool of water. I didn't stop her as her joy and laughter was contagious.  
In scripture, water often represents faith and the presence of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus told the crowds in Jerusalem, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'" Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive...  John 7:37-39   
As I reflect on this photo and that experience, I pray that my faith, and the faith of my daughter, will be such that we always race to the Word and completely and without hesitation immerse ourselves in the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  I pray we always have a thirst for the living water.  I pray that our hearts will overflow with that water and we can share with others the source of our joy and laughter.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Lenten Photo a Day Challenge - Day 22: Strength

Who do you think of when you think of strength?  One of the first people that come to mind for me is my husband.  He's kind of the strong, silent type.  One of the things I admire most about him is that he'd be the first to admit that any strength he appears to have is not his own.  He relies on a strength bigger than any of us are capable of.  There are many, many places in scripture than refer to God as our source of strength.  One of my favorites is Psalm 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Did you catch that? He is very present. The verb used is present, active, now.  Not later, not only when we need it, but God and His strength is available to us at all times.  Lean into that.  Boast not about any strength that we may or may not have.  Boast only in Christ and what our Father is for us.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Silhouette Cards

I made a quick set of note cards today using a few different silhouette images featuring dogs from A Child's Year.  I love that cartridge!  For paper, I grabbed one of my DCWV stacks.  I recently found "The Snapshot Stack" on clearance, so I grabbed it, some washi tape, clear sentiment and stitching stickers from SRM, and a few other odds and ends (enamel dots, twine, paper clip) to create these cards.

Lenten Photo a Day Challenge - Day 21: Penitential

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 1:8-9

It's snowing (again) here in Virginia.  I snapped this photo shortly after the snow began to fall and cover a black rubber mat we have on our back deck.  Today's photo challenge word is "penitential" and the mat somehow reminded me of sin - black, complicated, winding through my soul.  The snow falling onto the mat reveals its pathways just as our encounters with God reveal our sin.  If we want a closer relationship with God, we must confess all.  He convicts us and shows us what He wants to heal in us.  Sometimes it's a painful process as we really don't want those dark paths revealed, but it is necessary.  And God is faithful.  He forgives.  He cleanses.  He clothes us in his righteousness.  Isaiah 1:18 teaches, "Come now, let us reason together," says the Lord: "though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool."   As I looked out onto my back deck a short time later, the mat was gone, covered in a blanket of pure, white, dazzling snow.

Monday, March 24, 2014

DCWV March Stack-a-holic Callenge

The White Ginger Stack from DCWV has been one of my favorites.  I love the bright colors tempered with the brown.  The shiny foil elements are awesome, too.  It's so easy to put together a layout using stacks and of course a sketch.  See the full sketch and more layouts at DCWV's blog.
This layout, by the way, includes photos from May of last year - whoo hoo!  I'm catching up :)

Lenten Photo a Day Challenge - Day 20: Gift

Sometimes I can't decide if I enjoy giving gifts or receiving gifts more.  In both cases, love and joy are primary emotions.  I have been the recipient of many good gifts - tangible and intangible.  On the tangible side, I'm partial to anything handmade.  There is just something special about knowing that an item was crafted by hand and heart. I am touched deeply when I receive a gift lovingly created just for me.  The quilt made specifically for me by my mom is one such gift.  It warms me physically on cold nights, but it does so much more.  I see her handiwork and I am warmed inside by memories of her and the love she had for me.
The gifts we receive from our Heavenly Father are even more precious.  James reminds us that every good and every perfect gift is from above (James 1:17).  As we continue to work our way through Lent, we are reminded of the most awesome gift of all, the gift of eternal life which is ours by grace through faith in our Savior Jesus. (Ephesians 2:8, Romans 6:23)  While I can and do enjoy the warmth of this quilt here on earth, its threads will eventually thin and deteriorate.  The faith that binds me to Jesus however, will never fade or break and I look forward to life eternal with my Heavenly Father.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Lenten Photo a Day Challenge - Day 18: Fruit

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  Galatians 5:22-23

Lord, may your Spirit so blossom in my soul that all those around me may know me by these fruits. Amen.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Lenten Photo a Day Challenge - Day 17: Stations

Today's word is "stations."  When I was a kid, we often attended the stations of the cross with my grandma. I remember moving from station to station - really plaques on the wall depicting the various stages of Jesus' trial and journey to his death on the cross - and feeling very solemn.  Sometimes incense burned and a hazy cloud encircled us, adding to the somber mood.  I haven't practiced this tradition in many, many years...or have I?

Oftentimes, but especially during this season of Lent, I find myself contemplating the sacrifices of Jesus.  The mental and physical and emotional pain He endured - for me (and you, too).  This human suffering makes my Jesus a close and empathetic friend when I am suffering.  He knows pain.  He isn't just some high-above-humanity kind of god that looks down on us from a distance.  He does not want distance.  God, in Jesus, came down to us and suffered for us to remove that distance.  He knows pain.  He knows me and loves me with a greater love than I can fathom.  Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13  In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 4:10.  Thanks be to God!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Lenten Photo a Day Challenge - Day 16: Heaven

Hmmm, what happened to days 10-15???? Well, both good and bad reasons are behind my not posting or writing about any Lenten Photo each day for most of the past week.  Day 10's word was "meatless" on my list - and I'm not Catholic so I enjoyed eating meat (but didn't want to offend any Catholics who were abstaining).  I did take a photo for Day 10: Witness, but only posted it on Instagram.  Day 11 was Sunday and I give myself a day of rest.  Then the next few days were a blur.  A very important person in our lives went to see Jesus last week and Tuesday we gathered to say our "farewells" and "see you laters."  It was, to say the least, emotionally draining.  We returned home last night and this morning I looked at my list of words.

Today's word, Day 16, is "Heaven."  A word of comfort, hope, promise.

I'm no stranger to the face of death.  I've seen it more than I've wanted to and felt its cold presence.  I am not afraid of it, though.  I know that the cold and dark can be moved aside with the presence of hope.  And I cling fiercely to that hope.  If you are a Christian you know what I'm talking about.  It's the hope we have in Jesus.  It's the hope that is ours because we have the promise and gift of eternal life.  It's the hope that assures me that although I've had to say my farewells to my grandma, my dad, my mom, my Uncle, my husband's grandparents, friends, and most recently our very much loved Doug - a friend, mentor, uncle, and father to us, I know that our farewell is only for the time we have here.  All these people loved Jesus and believed in his promise of eternal life.  They knew that He is the way, the truth, the source of real and eternal life.  And so I live in hope that when it is my time to be free of this earthly body and return to Heaven, I will see my Savior and then be reunited with these loved ones.
What will heaven be like?  I think it's more than our human brains can possible understand at this point. No photo I take could really show heaven. My photo for today is an instagram of another photo - a favorite of my parents on their wedding day.  When I think of heaven, my heart feels a longing - for Jesus, for my parents, for Doug, for those I knew on earth who live in heaven now.  What do you see and feel when you think of heaven?  I hope it makes you smile and live in hope.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Lenten Photo a Day Challenge - Day 9: Talent

Lenten Photo a Day Challenge - Day 9: Talent
Talent, as used in the Bible, refers to a unit of measurement.  It's actually the heaviest and largest unit of measurement and currency.  So, in Jesus' parable of the talents, the servants who received talents from their master received a rather large sum of money.  The master expected them to use his resources well while he was away.  Two of the servants were commended as "good and faithful" because they set right to work with their master's money and multiplied it in his absence.  They were rewarded with increased responsibilities and were also then invited to share in the master's joy.  In contrast, the servant who did nothing with his talent was severely rebuked.  The talent was taken away and that servant thrown "into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (v. 30).  Not many of us (at least in my circle) have been given huge sums of money to work with.  We have been given, however, many talents of a different kind.  Each one of us has been crafted in unique and gifted ways.  God has created in us certain gifts and talents that He has planned for us to use in his kingdom.  Let us be filled with the Holy Spirit who will enlighten us, guide us, and empower us to use our talents in service and to the glory of God.  May we, at our Master's return, hear "well done, good and faithful servant!"

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Lenten Photo a Day Challenge - Day 8: Forty

Lenten Photo a Day Challenge - Day 8: Forty
Forty.  Forty is the word of the day.  Forty what? Forty days and nights of rain. Forty years of wandering in the wilderness.  Forty days on the mountain. A forty day fast.  Forty days of Lent.  Forty in the bible seems to be associated with a period of trial or testing.  Many numbers have significant meaning in the Bible and I learned today that 5 and 8, which of course are factors of 40, also have significant and connected meaning. 5 is associated or points to the action of grace.  8 is associated with revival or renewal.  These 40 days of Lent may be a period of trial and we remember Jesus' trials, but it's also important to look into that 40 and see the grace and renewal associated with it.  Thankfully our God sees us through every period of trial, no matter the number of minutes, hours, days, or years.  His presence never leaves us.  His promises encourage us to see past our current circumstances and know that through his grace we will be renewed and strengthened.

Love This Girl (and these papers) Layout

I so excited to be able to play with more new Teresa Collins collections papers today.  Her "Save the Date" collection is awesome for wedding and engagement, but is not limited to that theme at all.  The addition of the black to the soft colors make it a great pick for boys or girls and lots of different occasions.  These papers also have a thick and wonderful new texture to them.  I was drawn immediately to the bold black striped sheet in the collection and had the perfect photo in mind.  The soft pale pinks and greens really soften the starkness of the bold stripe and the black and white photo.  I think they are perfectly "married" (chuckle chuckle).  I took this photo of my daughter this winter, played with it a bit in Photoshop, and was excited to get it into a scrapbook layout.  Most of the elements like the tags, stickers, and enamel dots are from the Save The Date collection.  I fussy cut the rose bunches from another 12x12 sheet in the collection.  While at Scrapdoodles, I also picked up the gold chipboard starts (Studio Calico) and added them to the layout.

The black and white twine is from my stash - made by Doodlbug Designs.  I love the movement in gives to the bottom of the page while still anchoring the overlapping tags.

Look closely at the photo and you'll notice one of Teresa Collins new photo overlays.  I love how this adds yet another element to look at on your layout and this one was perfect over my photo, especially as it repeats the star element.
If you haven't seen it yet, come in to find your own stash of this new collection - it's not just for weddings!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Lenten Photo a Day Challenge - Day 7: Purple

Lenten Photo a Day Challenge - Day 7: Purple
Oh purple - my favorite color since I can remember having a favorite color.  The lovely amethyst is my birth stone and anyone who knows me, knows I love the jewel and the color.  I have purple scarves, purple clothes, purple tennis shoes, purple bible cover, purple ipad cover, a purple craft room and the list goes on.  I frequently point out that purple is "the color of royalty."  In the ancient world, purple was a symbol of wealth and royalty due to the lengthy process of obtaining purple dye from a certain mollusk.  It was rare and therefore expensive to dye garments with this rich purple color, so often times only the rich or royal sported purple garments.  In Jesus' time, Roman soldiers mocked him by placing the crown of thorns on his head and a purple robe on his shoulders.  They spit and laughed and called him names, but despite the mockery they created and participated in, there was, in actuality, no king greater than Jesus.   They mocked him with that purple cloak, but we praise the King of Kings that Jesus is.  During this Lenten season, our pastor wears a purple stole - a penitential color - which reminds us of Jesus' suffering and death.  But it is also a color of faith and hope.  It reminds us that our Jesus is a triumphant King who died for us and conquered death to remove our sins and reconcile us with the Father.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Lenten Photo a Day Challenge - Day 6: Reflection

Lenten Photo a Day Challenge - Day 6:Reflection
As we grow in our faith we are often able to see God's workings around us more clearly than ever and as we grow, our very selves reflect more accurately the love that God has shown us.  Reflection is an interesting word with many nuances of meaning.  Sometimes a reflection can be a clearly mirrored image, but it's not always crystal clear.  Rippling water or any shiny surface may reflect the sun and landscape, but if the surface is moving or smudged or textured, the reflected image may be distorted.  A reflection may also refer to a careful consideration of some thought or idea.  Both of these meanings apply to our Christian lives.  During Lent we often make a determined effort to spend more time reflecting on scripture and our relationship with Christ.  That time is not wasted.  That time in scripture and at the feet of Jesus will result in our own improved reflections.  We cannot be unchanged by the Word.  Steeping ourselves in it can only make us a more accurate reflection of God's love for us.

For now I see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.  Now I know in part, then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.  1 Corinthians 13:12

As water reflects the face, so one's life reflects the heart.  Proverbs 27:19

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Lenten Photo A Day Challenge - Day 4: Faith

Lenten Photo A Day Challenge - Day 4: Faith
My photo today is a close up of a scrapbooking layout I created for an online class.  I am passionate about sharing my faith through my gift of creativity.  God has blessed me in this endeavor through online teaching opportunities and encouraging me to be a part of creative events through my church.  It's an exciting ride when one listens to God to see where He would have us live out our faith!

To where is God calling you to live out your faith and utilize the gifts He's blessed you with? It may be at home or it may be in the wider community. We go through many seasons of life, I believe, but God will faithfully continue to grow and use us when we are listening to His guidance.

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Friday, March 7, 2014

Lenten Photo a Day - Day 3: Test

Lenten Photo a Day Challenge - Day 3: Test
"Sharpen your pencils! It's time for a test."  Do these words strike fear? anxiety? excitement?  I think we all approach tests differently.  Our confidence often depends on how well prepared we feel.  In my school years, I actually liked tests - at least the pen and pencil kind.  The tests of life? hmmm, not so much.  They are much harder.  I'm not always confident of the outcome.  I don't always feel very prepared to meet the standards.  In school, there was a study guide - usually I knew the content and could prepare.  In this life it's a little harder.  Tests may come up unexpectedly and the content may be unfamiliar territory.  So, how do we prepare for the pop quizzes of life?  Thankfully, we do have a study guide - the Bible.  No, we may not always know what's coming up next, but when we are in the Word we, in essence, keep our pencils sharpened.  Scripture gives us many examples of people - ordinary people like you and me - who respond to life's tests and, by relying on God, His strength, His example, His power, they remain steadfast under life's trials.  God doesn't leave us to take the test alone.  We can daily sharpen our pencils and equip ourselves through the Word to face the tests of life.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Lenten Photo A Day - Day 2: Virtue

Day 2: Virtue
Day 2's word is virtue.  The first thing I thought of was the Proverbs 31 woman.  Looking at a few different Bible translations, she is referred to as a "virtuous woman" a "wife of noble character" or "an excellent wife." She's quite a woman to live up to.  She works hard, generously gives to others, and cares for her home and family well. My Bible says she wears purple (v22) - always a noble color (and my favorite). She speaks with wisdom and shares her wisdom with others.  This woman does not seek praise, but her children call her blessed and her husband praises her (v28).   According to verse 10, she is worth far more than jewels, and my translation specifically mention rubies, thus my photo.  The "jewels" I used belong to my daughter.  The small purse was handmade by my mother.
When I think of my mom (now resting in heaven from her work on earth), I remember many virtuous qualities - she worked hard and took care of us well. She was a seamstress and a gardener, so it's easy to picture her as the Proverbs woman.  She was many things, but she was not perfect - none of us are.  My daughter is five - so young but wanting to be so grown up.  I have much to teach her and pray daily for wisdom as I do so.  I hope she one day sees the Proverbs 31 woman in me.  She'll know I'm not perfect, but I hope she'll rise and call me blessed and memories of me will be worth far more than rubies in a purse.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Lenten Photo a Day Challenge

Lenten Photo a Day Challenge - Day 1: Dust
Growing up Catholic, we always gave up something for Lent.  Since I'm no longer Catholic, it's not something I regularly do, but I still feel like I should be doing something to mark the season.  For the last few years, I've focused more on adding something to my Lenten journey with the goal of drawing closer to Christ during the 40 day walk towards Easter.  This year I'm participating in a Photo a Day Challenge.  My list is from the Catholic Sistas (I know, kind of funny because I am now Lutheran, but with a few changes I like their list and the idea to keep it on Instagam).  Each day's photo is taken and published on Instagram and any other social media platforms I wish.  I'll be taking a photo each day, but I also feel a desire to write a few words to accompany these photos.  I will share the small book I'm creating to record my photos and devotions as soon as it's ready.  Each day's word is something for me to examine in my own quiet time and study and if I'm led to write and share, I will.  Today's word is dust.  Unfortunately, it wasn't too difficult to find a bit of dust in my home.  I carved a cross into that dust and it got me thinking.

Don't you hate it when the morning sun shines through the window and everything that looked clean and dust free the night before now sports a thick layer of dust with the light of day?  I swear I just dusted the house two days ago! Truth is, it was just harder to see in the dark.  Maybe I did just dust a couple days ago (or perhaps it's been longer), but it re-gathered and re-settled and was clearly evident as the sunlight hit it at daybreak.  A wee bit like our own hearts, don't you think?  We work so hard to keep it clean, but it's hard, impossible really, to get every last speck of sin swept out.  Try as we may, as soon as we think we're clean, more sin settles on down and is clearly revealed in the light of the Son.  It's why we need a Savior.  We just cannot do it on our own.  It's why we need a Savior - the Son who stands against sin, death, and the devil.  It's why we need a Savior.  So we can stand in the presence of the pure source of light and love.  Through Christ alone are our hearts made clean.  I'll keep working on the dust, but I'll also keep turning to my Savior to allow Him to continue His work in me.  He does a much more thorough job.  

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within in me.
Psalm 51:10

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Circle Punch Border

I'm always looking for a quick way to dress up a layout and showcase beautiful patterned papers.  One technique I often turn to uses my trusty old circle punch.  It's a great technique for using up scraps of paper and livening up a layout. Simply punch circles from your coordinating scraps and layer them down the side (or top or bottom) of your layout for a quick and colorful border.  Add a block of photos, your title, and journaling, and you've completed another memorable layout.

These papers are from an older DCWV stack, Fun in the Sun Glitter Stack.  The title includes mini letters from Cosmo Cricket and American Crafts chipboard letters.

Try these ideas for working with paper scraps and punches:
This Week's Topic at My Creative Life 2014 is Punches!

If you're looking for even more ways to use punches and paper scraps in your scrapbook layouts, as well as use up more of your scrapbook stash, you'll want to check out my class at My Creative Classroom.  It's packed full of sketches, layout samples, and lots of ideas for digging into your creative supplies and using what you have on hand to create awesome layouts.