Scraps of Life, Introduction

My mom was a seamstress.  She sewed all our clothes when my siblings and I were growing up.  Here we are in some of her creations. You can see that my sister and I are not twins.  She just liked to dress us alike.

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Some of my earliest memories are of standing on a table in a new dress mom was making for me, trying to hold still so she could mark the hem, and having difficulty with my part of that task!

Mom sewed this cute jacket for my brother and he won a prize in a local photo contest with this photo!

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My mom also sewed for others as a small home business.  She took sewing classes and learned to sew new fabric, making lingerie, t-shirts as well as men’s suits – yes my dad was the recipient of those lovely leisure suits men wore during the 1970’s, made by my mom.  Too bad I don’t have any photos of those!

Her skills developed to the point that she sewed the bridesmaid dresses, flower girl and ring bearer outfits, and even my wedding dress for my wedding.

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All that sewing left many scraps of fabric, which were gathered up and put into boxes to be used for potential new projects.

Maybe you can’t relate to fabric and sewing, but many other activities leave scraps or leftovers; building, writing, painting, scrapbooking, collage making, wood working and cooking to name a few.

This morning I was reflecting on an idea that has been in the back of my mind for a while.  How to begin to blog about the last 6 months of my life.  Months of not doing what I had planned.

Then the idea of scraps came to me. Like random leftover scraps of fabric, what I was experiencing seemed to have very little purpose. Yet, I believe that “with God nothing is wasted”.  Can this season of my life, that wasn’t what I planned, that wasn’t very productive or seemingly useful, serve some purpose?

When mom retired from sewing I inherited 7 boxes of fabric!  They have been sitting in my basement for a few years.  I took a class in quilt piecing back in the early 1990’s and loved it.  I told myself then that when I was “old” and “retired” I would go back to piecing quilts. This year, I had to face the fact that I was turning 60, and when I finally faced it, I embraced that this was the time to get that fabric organized and start sewing.

Believe it or not, the most fun I’ve had so far with that fabric, is pulling scrap pieces out and sewing them together to make quilt blocks. These will be designed into baby quilts, doll quilts, lap quilts, place mats, and whatever else I think of. I’ve completed one or two doll quilts with these scraps.  Here is a photo of one:

doll quilt

Scraps, the leftovers, the pieces that didn’t fit into the orginal garment or quilt, now being used to create something new.

What if, in our lives, the parts that seem like scraps, not what we purposed to happen, can actually have a purpose?  Can I do what Ignatius of Loyala did and “find God in all things”, even the in the scraps of life?

I plan to explore this idea in my next blogs. If, that is, my plans go forward as I think they will.  Who knows – something may come up and then we will go with that!  Stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

Another New Year’s Post

Yes, it’s that time again…the end of the year…the time when you see a lot of blog posts about New Year’s resolutions, new opportunities, setting goals, etc., etc., etc.

I don’t really do this much, setting New Year’s resolutions, mostly because when I did, I couldn’t keep up my resolution to exercise or diet or whatever it was for more than a few weeks.  Doomed to fail….so I just don’t do it, much.

But many people use the end of the year as a time to evaluate the past and look forward to the new year with new resolve.

We are at the end of another year.  What does that mean?

I have been struck recently with a passage in Psalm 65 and want to offer it to you as a different way to think of the passing of one year into the next.

Psalm 65:11-13 New Living Translation (NLT)

11 You crown the year with a bountiful harvest;
    even the hard pathways overflow with abundance.
12 The grasslands of the wilderness become a lush pasture,
    and the hillsides blossom with joy.
13 The meadows are clothed with flocks of sheep,
    and the valleys are carpeted with grain.
    They all shout and sing for joy!

 

Notice who does the action here; “you”- God crowns the year.  God crowns it with “harvest.” Harvest; receiving the fruits of planting and caring for crops; something that happens at certain times of the year. Farmers and gardeners are well acquainted with this concept.  Others, not so much!

And not just regular or minimum return, but “bountiful harvest.” There is a natural rhythm of life when one thinks of planting and harvesting.  A bountiful harvest is always desired, but not always achieved.  But seeds are planted in soil that is appropriate to grow the crop. Time passes, the crop is weeded and watered and fertilized, yet it seems as if not much is happening for a while.

“Even the hard pathways overflow with abundance…the grasslands of the wilderness become a lush pasture.” What a beautiful image – that hard pathway and wildnerness landscape – places where one doesn’t see beautiful plants – produces lush blossoms and is eventually carpeted with grain.

I can’t help but relate this to life….there are times when we feel like we are on a hard path in life. We are wandering in the wilderness and nothing is making sense.  What a beautiful hope we have that with God, reflected in the seasons of planting, growth and harvest, the hard places we find ourselves in, the wilderness we are traveling through, is not the end of the story.

No matter where you are in the cycle of the seasons of life, I invite you to trust that God will bring about an abundant and amazing harvest. That God will “crown the year” with a harvest that will give you cause to “shout and sing for joy” as you keep the “seed of your life in the soil of God’s love where the roots of your life can grown down deep.” (Eph. 3: 17)This is my prayer for you in 2019.

My New Year’s resolution for 2019? If I had one, it would be the same resolution I try to make each day – to live life with God – to follow the leading of God’s Holy Spirit – to watch and wait for God’s movement and join God in what God is doing – to keep the roots of my life down deep in the soil of God’s love so God can produce a truly amazing harvest in and through my life.

 

 

He Came. Part 4

Have you ever wondered at the fact that the God of the universe, creator of heaven and earth, entered into our world…

so very humbly,

….born of a shunned young teenage woman who found herself pregnant with the Son of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Who’s fiancé was going to divorce her quietly, which was the kindest of his legal options, yet was told by God in a dream to marry her because she was carrying the Messiah…

so very weak,

….born.  A human baby.  Unable to care for his own needs. Totally dependent on the care of the adults in the situation….

so very unnoticed,

….Jesus was born away from his earthly parent’s home, in the discomfort of a smelly, dark, damp cave that was home to animals, unknown to the general population, except announced by angels in the middle of the night to lowly shepherds who were sleeping outside with their sheep.

in the company of animals?

And have you ever wondered why all this glory was witnessed first by animals and shepherds? What was going on?

I’ve never taken much stalk in the children’s books about the birth of Christ where the animals are talking to each other. Seemed a bit ridiculous to me. My Christian up bringing did not teach me to value nature and animals as something that God practically cared much about.

But over the years my views have been changing on that.  I won’t go into the hows and whys, except to say that I’ve been reminded that God’s main job for the first humans was to care for the garden and to multiply.  Care for the garden – care for God’s gift – their home. That included caring for the animals.

And Jesus was born among animals….hmmmm.

There is a time when Jesus will come with power and glory – His 2nd coming.  And all will be made right.  All of nature is waiting for that moment….

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerlyfor our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. (Romans 8:18-25 NIV)

So as we approach the Christmas celebration of Emmanuel, God with us, we continue to wait patiently for the coming of God when “creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God…we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait patiently for it.” (Romans 8:21, 25)

Reflection:

Are you waiting for this liberation?  Do you have hope in the God of creation, that God will one day release all of creation from “its bondage to decay and be brought into the freedom of glory of the children of God.”  Talk with God about what comes to the surface for you.

 

He Came. Part 3

Part 3: He Came. Why?

He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”   John 1:11-13 (NIV)

In retrospect, I should have probably started this He Came series with this post – Why did Jesus come?

James B. Torrence, in his book Worship, Community and the Triune God of Grace writes that Jesus’ life on earth, his death and his resurrection was vicarious – it was in our place.  It was God’s response to human need.

And what need is that?  It takes going back to the beginning of the record of God’s revelation of God to God’s creation, the Holy Scriptures – or Bible.

The first words of the Bible are found in the book of Genesis chapter 1 – “In the beginning, GOD…” Here we understand that God existed before all that we know – and God was the instigator in creating all that we see in the natural world, including humans.  That truth is expanded upon in various places throughout the scriptures.

By the third chapter of Genesis we find that the humans, who God created for the purpose of love and relationship, chose to live apart from God’s love and design, and that brought forth all kinds of hardship, wounding, and suffering into their lives and into the lives of the subsequent human race.

In response, however, also found in Genesis 3, God promises a deliverer – one who will set things right once and for all.  Because the truth is, humans more often than not choose their own way, not God’s.  You can read through the rest of the Bible and study history to confirm that.  Time and time again, human relationships have deteriorated to selfishness, cruelty and ruling each other for one’s own gain.

Many of God’s spokesmen have tried and continue to direct people back to God.  Here is what the prophet Isaiah had to say about humanity found in the book of Isaiah chapter 53, in the New Living Translation;

All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
    We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him
    the sins of us all.

This passage is couched in the chapter that predicts the coming of the deliverer announced by God in Genesis 3:15. The prophecy included the details that this deliverer would suffer and take on the punishment for the sins of the straying sheep – humans – you and me, vicariously, in our place. What greater love is there than someone lay down his life for another (I John 3:16)?

This is God’s response to the human condition.  Emmanuel, God with us. With love and humility, God set aside God’s glory (Philippians 2) to become one of us; to come to us through Jesus Christ, who was “very God of very God” (Nicene Creed).

What a gift of grace, that God continues to offer God’s presence through Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

What is your response to God’s response?

He Came, Part 2

He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. John 1:11-13 (NIV)

When Jesus entered the world as a newborn baby, many of the people who had been looking for the birth of the long promised Messiah, written about in the Old Testament by prophets of God, did not recognize Jesus as that Messiah.

They expected a conquering King, not a baby born to poor parents.

A powerful leader, not someone trained as a carpenter who wandered the countryside for three years with a ragtag bunch of followers, preaching about a “kingdom of God”, stirring up the people and challenging the religious leaders of the day.

Someone to save them from the difficult life circumstances of being subject to the Roman conquerors of their territory.

Jesus was rejected by many of his own people of that day.

Those he came to reveal God’s Kingdom to.

Those who he invited to live in this kingdom.

Those who had been looking for the Messiah – and often, those who were the religious priests and leaders.

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

There were those, however, who did believe that Jesus was sent by God and was the promised Messiah.  These people became “children of God.” And that made all the difference.

Reflection:

Many today do not believe that Jesus is the promised Messiah, the one sent by God.  How hard is it for you to believe?  Would you like to believe?  Perhaps you could pray like the father, looking for a miracle, said to Jesus, “Lord I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24 NLT)

The Gift of Christmas

I grew up in the 1960’s and 70’s in a small Kansas community where everyone knew their neighbors and television was black and white.  Yes, that dates me!  In that community, during the 70’s, one of the few jobs available to a teenage girl was babysitting. Lucky for me, I liked kids, and did a great deal of babysitting.  I really loved babysitting before Christmas, so I could watch the TV Christmas specials with the kids I was watching.  You see, not only was TV black and white, our family didn’t own one! Now everyone has mobile devices you can watch movies in color and hi-def on through Netflix, but then it was different!

One of my favorite television Christmas specials was and still is, A Charlie Brown Christmas. The very first A Charlie Brown Christmas aired at 7:30 p.m. on the CBS Network and its affiliates the evening of December 9, 1965. It almost wasn’t, as the “CBS bigwigs” who first viewed it “hated it” for many reasons, according to Bill Nichols in his article “The Christmas Classic That Almost Wasn’t”, USA Today, posted on December 5, 2005. However, nearly 50% of the national’s viewing audience saw that first airing, and the reviews were positive. Today it is considered a Christmas classic and has become the staple of many family holiday traditions.

In the movie, Charlie Brown is troubled by the commercial trappings of Christmas, and when his small, pathetic Christmas tree choice is rejected by his friends for the Christmas program, he states with a sigh, “I guess I don’t know what Christmas is all about.”  At that point, the lights grow dim, Linus takes center stage, and quotes, from memory,

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And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings (good news) of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (King James Bible, Luke 2:8-14)

Later, it is again Linus who finds the rejected little Christmas tree, sees the possibilities, and begins to decorate it, along with the other children who saw him and joined in.  This tree becomes a symbol, of what Christmas is truly about; what the gift of Christmas truly is…..it is God’s love in the form of a baby, come down to be with us on earth….love that brings joy, a Savior, and hope! Love that transforms what seems small and insignificant, into something that is full of beauty, although sometimes with stops and starts.  This is indeed, very “good news!”

All human being have the need to be loved and to give love.  It is one of the 6 core needs of every person introduced by coach and speaker Anthony Robbins.

Dallas Willard, philosopher and spiritual director wrote in his book, Divine Conspiracy, “The condition of life that every human longs for is found in the quiet transforming presence of Jesus.”

How can you bring LOVE, the Gift of Christmas, to those around you this season?  Here are some suggestions for you to consider:

  • Take time once a week, or for a few moments at the end of each day, to turn off the lights in the house and sit in the glow of the Christmas tree, slow down and reflect on the state of your relationships. Could they use some expressions of LOVE?
  • Consider what says LOVE to your friends and family and provide a small token of that for Christmas.
  • Attend a Christmas music performance.
  • Attend a Christmas Eve service at a local church.
  • Consider God’s LOVE for you in providing the Savior, Jesus. Talk to a trusted friend, priest, pastor or clergy if you have questions.

I wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas; one filled with the gift of Christmas – LOVE.

 

Grief

I just finished an 11 part blog series, sharing the music and cancer journey of my brother, Doug Friesen.  He died 20 years ago at age 34 from the affects of non-Hodgkins Lymphoma..

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Doug with his family, Spring of 1998

I have been listening to Doug’s music and reflecting on his life for a good portion of the last year, and I have been surprised that, even though it’s been 20 years, the grief that has welled up from time to time was quite strong.  Hearing Doug’s voice singing praises to God for the first time in years was powerful.  And then hearing the CD after the music had been re-recorded and remixed digitally – it was like Doug was in the room, singing. I couldn’t stop the tears.

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The original cassette tape Doug recorded and produced.

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The cd re-recorded and remixed in 2018.

All the memories that came back while listening to the songs were sweet to recount.  The loss stung once again, and at times, I wondered how we got through the past 20 years without him.

Doug & Monica Friesen, Jenny & Rob Wall going out to eat, June 1998.

Doug on the left, his wife Monica, sister Jenny, and brother-in-law Robert early July, 1998.

I’ve learned a lot about grief over the years as we suffered through the illness and loss of Doug, and several other family members.

  • there is no right or wrong way to grieve;
  • everyone grieves differently;
  • there are times you feel very alone in your grief;
  • there are stages of grief (shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) but just because you go through one or two stages doesn’t mean you won’t go back through them again from time to time;
  • time does heal the pain but the loss leaves a scar;
  • no one can replace the person who is gone;
  • normal is not recovered, but a new normal can be found;
  • grief can come in waves you can’t stop, so don’t fight it – just go with the tears;
  • grief can come softly with a memory you can smile at;
  • it is important to give yourself time to grieve;
  • holidays and significant family celebrations often are times the loss is felt strongly once again;
  • it is healthy to talk about the person who is no longer there; to do things to remember that person by;
  • it is sometimes necessary and always good to seek out a counselor, pastor or caring trusted friend to talk to about your grief;
  • I’m sure you can add your own ideas here.

Today I ran across this quote by Elisabeth Elliott,

Grief never ends, but it changes.

It’s a passage, not a place to stay.

Grief is not a sign of weakness, not a lack of faith…

It is the price of LOVE.

We grieve much become we love much. During Doug’s illness and passing, and after his death, I experienced the comfort of God as I went to scriptures, particularly the Psalms, with my grief.

After Doug’s passing, and some time had gone by, I found myself drawn to reaching out to others when they experienced the death of a family member.  I learned what they needed by going through it myself.  My presence, a listening ear, a baked item offered; all expressing to them God’s love, as it had for me and my family while we were grieving.

After listening to Doug’s musc for some time this past year, I was able to sing along, kind of like how we used to sing together.  I was able to chuckle at memories and enjoy thinking about him.  Our family celebrated Doug’s life this summer by gathering to view a slide show of pictures from his life, share our memories of Doug, and plant a tree in his memory in a local park near where my parents live.

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June 2018 Our immediate family planted tree in Doug’s memory

It has not been easy to go on without Doug.  In fact, it has been very hard.  I cling to God’s promises and to His comfort…

 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (II Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV)