Friday, January 23, 2015

Grace on a Thursday: Crochet class


Last night, I started a three-sesh crochet class at a local yarn shop.

I crochet now.

Really, it's an odd time for me to be learning a new skill. It doesn't feel like the "right" time. It seems all the resources...time, money and energy...are scarce in my life. It seems, if you're floating on a raft after a shipwreck, the last thing you need is to pick up a new hobby. 

But last night, as my fingers found their way into a pattern, looping over and over again until the pattern was repeated hundreds of times, the pattern became a rhythm. And that rhythm, hammered out along a strand of mustard-colored wool, gave me a steady, soul-satisfaction; one I needed.

The very first verb in the Bible is an action that God Himself does. "In the beginning, God created...(Genesis 1:1)."

It's the first thing He wants us to know about Him. He creates. "Let me just introduce myself, " He says, "by starting at something essential. You need to understand this about me. I am creative. I create. And I am THE Creator." Soon afterwards, we read that we are made in His image.

Some people don't connect those dots, I guess; lots of adults make claims like, "Oh, I'm not creative at all!" Well...aren't you? Or at least, weren't you, before someone else told you otherwise? Do you know any small children who make bold claims that they are not creative? I believe something in us, all of us, needs to create, because we were made in the image of The Creator.

I'm diverging now but I'm not talking about crafts, in case you thought I was. Some people are naturally good at creating a good meal. Or an inviting atmosphere. Or a portfolio for a client. Think outside the box when I say we all need to 'create.' What do you naturally drift towards creating? It might be crafts, after all; you know I for one love a good bunting.

Back to crochet class. I sat there, knowing I didn't have time for this. And yet the quiet focus around the table ministered to me. In a hushed space, your senses have room to wake up, and I felt grateful for small things: for my own capable hands (I may not be able to use them so well someday), for the texture and color of a ball of yarn (like mottled grey alpaca, soft as down), and the way a hundred of them looks stacked along a wall.

What felt like long forgotten skills, crochet class reminded me - forced me - to practice: Be patient with myself. Give myself grace. I could rip out my work and start over because I was just learning. And lately my life doesn't feel the same; mistakes feel like they run long lines of damage. And all the past knots and rips are hard to overlook. Yet the kind, grey-haired woman who taught us gave me freedom to mess up. In fact, she expected it. She smiled on at our awkward movements, our holes and skipped steps. Graciously, she'd walk us through the repairs.

I wish my real life mistakes were the same. I'd love to rip out a long strand of harsh words snapped at my kid, and then wind a more careful sentence in it's place. Honestly, I wish my fabric looked perfect. It just doesn't. Far from it. So crazily far from it.

It's humbling to know that Jesus still smiles at me with kindness. Of course He doesn't smile at my sin, but He smiles at my feeble attempts to fix myself and others when I just don't have the ability. He does have the ability, though. He is the Creator, the master weaver of all things together for my good.

Like the woman who taught the class, Jesus isn't surprised by my mistakes. He expects them. He's ready to walk me through repairs in grace, He and His bloodstained hands.

A little creating, being quiet, and practicing grace for myself did my soul so much good. As did remembering that God is overseeing all the work. He's available, loving and kind, and capable of fixing all the things I can't. 

Crochet class wasn't the last thing I needed. It was the exact thing I needed.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

on bearing a broken heart

I took a break from blogging. Some of it intentional, some not. For a time, God clearly asked me to let it lie. Walk away and focus in. He knew what I needed, because Life got....I can't land on an adequate word. None of the words begin to single-handedly describe the storms that have crashed around us in the last half-year.

I periodically checked on my blog and discovered there was a glitch and I couldn't even get in. God kept the door shut. I accepted it (after trying to walk through the troubleshooting with Blogger eleventy times, let's be honest).

But sometime in November, I recognized a flicker of longing to write again. I slowly peppered God with "maybe, do you think, I could just a little bit, perhaps get into my blog..." prayers, which grew to sincere pleas for Him to stir me again and give me my voice back. I was afraid to attempt a login for a few weeks. And when I mustered the courage, somehow the glitch was gone. He said Yes. I was in.

And then a few more weeks passed because I don't know where to start. I feel overwhelmed by the past several months. They haunt me in a way, and I'm not sure I want to recap.

I suppressed an ugly cry on New Years Eve, as the clock struck midnight and everyone was cheering and hugging. At the moment the year clicked forward, I had a jolting feeling, like you have when you suddenly need to throw up: I wanted to ball up on my bed and cry out all the grief in which 2014 had nearly drowned me. But I cheered and hugged too.

At my first job out of college, working in the back office for a Medical Supplies company, I had a very kind, very elderly woman for a boss. She owned the business, and she treated me more like an adored granddaughter, than an employee. She would compliment me with a maternal intensity, and often said, with an equal measure of fervor each time, "Your skin is like a China doll!"

I keep hearing her, in my head, because I feel so fragile.

Many times, God has carried me through valleys high up in His arms, firmly seated and safe. I thought I was strong and rooted, in a permanent kind of way. But this season has been altogether different. I realize it was never me who owned the strength. It's not that I feel He isn't with me. It's more that I'm understanding He wants to acquaint me with my broken heart. He's unwrapped his strong arms from around me, and said, "Look. You couldn't see it before, because I was holding you together. See all these cracks? All the places your heart has been crushed? I can't heal you until we uncover them."

At all times, I feel I am bearing a broken-heartedness just under the surface. The littlest offenses burn deep. The smallest hints of pain send me running. And I am not a runner. I've never been a runner. But holy crap, this hurts.

God has told me it's the only road. There is one way to healing and it's through - not around, not above, and not blinded to, but only through - the hurt, looking the broken places full in the face. And it's taking a bravery I do not know much of, yet.

You're welcome for this upbeat and encouraging re-entry into blogging.

What I mean to say is thanks for listening. I've missed you.  


Wednesday, April 30, 2014

On wanting.


Oswald Chambers said this wise thing. I posted it on my Instagram feed a couple days ago and it is still churning in my head.

I have kids. I see this concept playing out in real time. My kids' birthdays are next month and they want stuff. Lots of stuff. But on an average day, what they don't really want is to share their hearts with me. They don't want to talk (or listen) about their friendships, their worries, their needs. They don't often think to invite me into their worlds. Oh, maybe when I prod and question, I'll get some information out of them. But it's not given because they are seeking a deeper relationship with me.

Yesterday, when I asked my daughter why she didn't want her dad to chaperone her youth group event like he did last year, she said, "Sometimes I just don't want my parents with me." In contrast, she is very quick to hand us a lengthy birthday gift list.

My kids want what I can give more than they want to be in an intimate, growing relationship with me. But no one is surprised by that, right? They are little children; they don't know what's best for them. They still think birthday stuff will make them happy. They take for grated the amazing people they have in their home loving and taking care of them with incredible generosity.

But this Chambers quote, well, I am not much better off. Let's be honest:

Do I want His blessings more than I desire to know God Himself?

Do I pray for peace or rescue or something He can provide for me more than I pray for understanding of His will and who He is?

Do I want comfort more than I want my character and endurance and faith to grow?

Do I act like I sometimes just don't want my Father with me, but then hand Him a lengthy list of requests?

Yes. Sometimes, absolutely yes.

It gets in the way, this wanting what He gives. But we are used to "getting" from Him because He is incredibly generous. He gives and gives and gives. In fact, He lavishes me with blessings and I don't even mean material ones, though being a suburban resident of America, we have it pretty good.

Beyond that, however, God never stops giving us His spirit, His guidance, His favor, His forgiveness. The list is endless, and so I get used to getting.

And I forget how a relationship works, even though I know better.

A healthy, growing, deepening one is focused on the people themselves, not the benefits. It is two-way. One person doesn't keep taking and taking, even if she is grateful, unless she is an immature child.

It's hard for me to walk out my relationship with God, when, frankly, I can't see Him. When I can't meet Him at Starbucks, or do many of the things I do normally when I work to build relationships in my life. Instead, it takes an amount of discipline to protect time together to talk and work through issues. It is much harder to stop my head from spinning long enough to listen to what He has to say to me. I sometimes forget Him, neglect our relationship and start getting in the habit of wanting what He gives more than I want Him.

But this quote recalibrated me. I truly do want more of Him, not just more FROM him.

I have so much to learn about the Lord. I mean, I feel like I've barely scratched the surface of knowing Him. And yet, I forget to press in, to walk with Him and listen to Him without simply wanting what He gives.

What are the basic ways we invest in our most important relationships? Do those things translate into our relationship with God, or do we treat Him differently? Sometimes going back to the basics is a good place to start.

Protecting time together. Being a good listener. Gratefully serving. Those are the things we would do for a best friend. What about with God? And what about learning from our kids? How would we like them to treat us? What would make us feel loved and enjoyed as people, rather than as Santa Clauses?

I'm scrunching up my long list of requests and choosing to invest in my real relationship with my best friend.

He'll meet me, no matter when and where, with a hug and a smile and all kinds of compliments I don't deserve.

And the only thing I have to bring is myself.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A winner and a question

Thank you to all of you who entered the giveaway for the Teacher Appreciation set from Katygirl last week. If you were not the winner, I just saw on her blog (click her name above) that Katy is offering a 25% off coupon code for her shop right now, and she is even giving a print away for FREE with all $10+ purchases!

As for the giveaway here, on Saturday at noon, as promised, I listed out all the names according to the number of entries each person submitted. For instance, if you earned 6 entries, I listed your name 6 times in a row. Then I yelled to my husband in the next room to pick a number between 1 and the total number of names, which I don't recall at the moment. Somewhere in the 20s. He picked 18. And on my list, #18 was Angel Haynes! Congrats, friend! I will be contacting you for the name of the teacher you would like to bless so Katy can personalize your stationery and get it on it's way to you.

And now I have a question for you.

Since Google reader went away, how do you prefer to read blogs these days? Bloglovin'? Feedly? Via Facebook posts? Are there new blog readers I don't even know about? Do you prefer to get posts delivered to your email inbox? I'm just curious because I haven't ever read blogs on anything other than Blogger's provided reader on the Unfolding dashboard. But I don't think that's the norm. (Which is one reason why I removed the Blogger "Follow" box from my sidebar.)

I'm not great at changing with the technological times. I may have been the last person to use dial up, I've had an AOL email account for 12 years, and I still have an iPhone 4. So if you are cooler than I am and know of the latest and greatest ways to interact in the blog world, share the wealth please.  

And enjoy your day! It's raining cats and dogs right now. That means the greatest MT wildflowers are on their way.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter Sunday, MT style

It appears the Easter Sunday rhythm in Montana goes something like this:

1. worship
2. eat
3. hike
4. eat

I'm sure some people follow a different routine. But the folks with whom we spent the holiday rolled like this. We went to church which was great, had quite a feast for brunch (featuring my best Easter idea this year: tropical waffle bar), and then went on a hike. Not a stroll around the block. A serious 2-family plus dogs, takes 30 minutes to get there, wear your hiking boots, hike. Finally, we came home for round two of feasting with ham and deviled eggs and lemon bars.

I've never gone on a hike on Easter Sunday, had a full on wardrobe change, mid-day, for some outdoor adventuring. By two o'clock I was hauling off the silk dress and necklace, and pulling over layers of knit and a beanie, since Spring is slow to find us up here.

This Easter schedule was new to me. And it was awesome.

Naturally, I didn't think to take any photos of us while we were doing normal Easter things, like dressing in pastels and going to church and eating our delicious brunch with our neighbor pals (the ones who got us to hike on Easter).

I only thought to take photos of the completely novel things. Like seeing the bison. Did you see any on Easter? What about a bald eagle? Did your dog frolic in the river? Did your kids take their bows and tromp through the wilderness looking for something to shoot? Did your husband wear a fleece vest? (I sometimes tease him for his fleece vest. It's funny to me. I don't know. If you're so cold, then why aren't there any arms?) I have proof that we did all of the above. Only the bald eagle eluded my camera.

Here are the visuals for you. Only one of these photos feels familiar to me, in terms of Easter festivities. I'll let you guess which one. But I will say that I like this, the unfamiliar rhythm of things in Montana. And I really like the friends God has brought into our lives this past year. I more than like them. I'm incredibly blessed by them and the ways they gently expand my horizons and loosen my expectations. Hey, if you need a little of that too, head on up this way. The bison will be waiting. 


This was our first Easter in Montana. I missed our extended family and traditions we've done for years, I missed the competitive grown-up egg hunt, my brother, and all the fancy foods we'd make. The kids missed their cousins, we missed our nephew's birthday, and we longed for hugs from each and every loved one too far away.

But I wore my "give me Jesus" necklace and mustered up the will to embrace the change.

It was our first Easter here. And I have to say, still, by the grace of God, it was a very good day.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Grace on a Thursday: Hashing out Passover

For years, I've wanted to be a part of a Passover Seder somehow. We used to go to a church that hosted one annually, but we never went. Then, I knew a Jewish family who hosted this special meal in their home every Passover; I secretly wished to be invited over, but it never happened. The Jewish feasts have always been so interesting to me, yet elusive. I have heard of people reading books that walked one through the feasts, but have never researched or had a book title or knew where to begin in celebrating with my own family.

Then, last Sunday, our pastor taught on the first Passover, the final plague on Egypt after which Pharaoh would let the Israelites go. Let me recap the story briefly. Over 2 million Israelites were harshly enslaved in Egypt. Moses was called by God to free and lead the people in a mass 'exodus' into the Promised Land, but Pharaoh was not going down without a fight. (Imagine the economic collapse a country might go into if it lost a workforce of 2 million people literally overnight!) After God sent nine awful, disciplinary plagues on the Egyptians, He told Moses that this final one would be the last straw: He would take the life of every firstborn of every household in the land.

The only way the Hebrew families would remain untouched was if a family had obediently swathed the doorposts with the blood of an unblemished lamb. Then, the angel of death would 'pass over' the household, sparing the life of the firstborn. The blood covered the family from the curse of death. And then, forever more, the Jews were commanded to remember this deliverance and celebrate Passover annually, teaching their children about God's faithfulness and grace. So much grace.

Our pastor read from the Old Testament, where God said the Jews were to roast the lamb meat, and eat it with bitter herbs (or salad greens) and unleavened bread. Because the Jews would very soon be freed, they would be in a rush to escape. In fact, Pharaoh would drive them out in his grief, and there would be no time to bake bread that needed to rise. In addition, God said to eat the meal with one's shoes on, and with one's walking stick in hand for the same reason. This meal was specifically "to be eaten in haste."

It's all so interesting. There aren't many instances in the Bible when God tells us to rush. We take notice when He does. Hurry to your freedom, He says. When I say go, you flee from captivity. This is not a meal to be eaten joyfully over three hours. It is to be taken solemnly and quickly and with grave remembrance, because something had to die first. Remember, there is blood at the door.   

Suddenly Passover seems not a thing to be "celebrated" as much as it is to be memorialized. And last Sunday, I decided remaining on the fringes of this holiday was not necessary; there was no reason I couldn't hash out a symbolic Passover meal in 24 hours for us to enjoy the next night. Heck, the Jews didn't have The Food Network and the internet and 3 easily accessible supermarkets like I did, and they had no trouble working it out.

The Scripture we read on Sunday listed three food items in the Passover meal: lamb, bitter salad greens, and flatbread. Easy. Well, minus the lamb part, which I had never cooked. But in a matter of minutes online, I found a simple recipe for roasting lamb. I went to two stores to find it, but when I did, it was on sale. Win. And finding the other two items was simple as well. I bought a bag of arugula, a bitter and spicy green which I love, and a box of Matzo bread. Crackers. I don't know what the proper term is. (However, when I got home, I noticed the box specifically says "Not for Passover." What? Why not? I don't understand.)

To be honest, I hesitated sharing this experience online. I was a bit afraid I might offend someone who knew the "proper" way to do Passover. I'm hoping for grace in this area, since I should be better versed on the holiday but am not, yet. On the other hand, I wondered if there were more people out there who have been interested in participating in the tradition, but felt overwhelmed or sort of uninvited, like I did.

Well, it boils down to this. My decision to hash out my own Passover and my decision to share it here were both rooted in this belief: God just wants us to remember and share His story. I believe He doesn't care as much about the details as He does about our hearts. Are we remembering that our freedom comes at a high price? Are we remembering there is blood on the door, the blood of the Lamb of God that covers us from the curse of death? And perhaps most importantly, are we telling each generation the stories of God's deliverance and power and incredible grace?

Sitting down to a meal of lamb and arugula and flatbread just made the history come to life. God knows the ways we learn best, and how amazing is it that He gives us tangible symbols? Sharing the Passover meal as a family simply created a venue to talk about God's great works, and it engaged our five senses, which are incredible triggers of memory. The whole experience was simple enough for a child to understand. At the table, we read from Exodus and then from the gospels. The Lamb had to die so that God's people could live. It is bitter and rich and when God says go, you don't hesitate. You run to your freedom.

God is a great Teacher. He doesn't just talk at us. In His grace, He invites us to learn with all our senses. To taste the bitterness of sin and slavery. To hear the dry snap of the cracker eaten in haste. To smell the roasted herbs and meat, satisfying and rich fuel for a long journey. And perhaps what I love best is that He wants us to learn and re-learn with our families. He wants our kids involved. He can't wait for them to taste and hear and smell and wonder about His great works too.

All in all, our night was awesome. I think we may be remembering Passover in this way every year. And next year, I may even find some people to invite.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Teacher Appreciation Giveaway with Katygirl

This girl, Katy. You know her? She is an awesome mommy to her two littles. One thing I admire about her is that she doesn't try to gloss over this job of motherhood. She'll admit that the days are sometimes really hard, that she is sometimes at a total loss over what to do. And yet, she chooses joy. All kinds of joy. It's evident in her everyday life, in her beautiful smile, in the demeanor of her kids, and it is splashed all over her work at Katygirl Designs.

Katy is an encourager, too, and when I saw her latest Teacher Appreciation pack, I immediately wanted to share it with you. Did you realize Teacher Appreciation week is the first full week in May? Right around the corner! I wrote about how important I feel it is to be regularly building up our kids' teachers in my Back to School series, here. And I wonder if this is the time of year when teaching begins to drag slowly on, as if summer will never come. I mean, I had my 3rd grader home sick for a few days and suddenly had a renewed compassion for his teacher and her constant struggle managing his talking in class. The child. Does. Not. Stop. Talking.

Now imagine that struggle times 26 kids with 26 other issues that are really beautiful aspects of childhood, but in April, they amount to a lot of thorns in that teacher's side. I'm just saying. It is a job I'm not sure I could do. Well, wait, I am pretty sure I couldn't.

I'm betting your child's teacher could use some encouragement right about now. A personal note of thanks and this pack from Katy would do the trick.

It includes:

1 5x7 "Change the World" print (a Teacher Appreciation week exclusive design)
4 personalized notecards with your teacher's name
1 $5 giftcard to Starbucks

This pack is valued at $24, and the print will only be available through Teacher Appreciation week, which is May 5th-9th. The set is also available for sale in Katy's etsy shop.

To enter to win all these things to encourage and uplift a teacher in your life, please do one or more of the following and leave a comment for each:

Follow Unfolding Blog and tell me how - 1 entry
Follow my new page Unfolding Blog on Facebook - 1 entry
Follow Katy's Blog - 1 entry
Follow me on Instagram @leslie_padgett - 1 entry
Follow Katy on Instagram @katykristin - 1 entry
Share this giveaway on Facebook or IG - 5 entries

I will choose a winner on Saturday at noon so it's kind of a quick giveaway!

And if you don't win, why not write a note of thanks and encouragement to those teachers anyway? I bet it would put a little wind in his or her sails.

If you want to check out Katy's other amazing prints and stationary goods, click here.