Sunday, 22 December 2013

Standing firm

Today at church I was encouraged by the sermon from Ephesians 6. It was about  standing firm in the truth that we know, and putting on the armour of God so that we can withstand whatever Satan throws at us. 

I was just as moved by the songs we sang (great choices JG), which reflected the point of the teaching perfectly. They are songs we've sung zillions of times and are almost overfamiliar. But I think some time of not being on the music team and being able to just turn up to church, sit and listen, has meant that I am being refreshed, and re-learning things that perhaps I was taking for granted. 

Through many dangers, toils and snares
 I have already come 
 Tis grace has brought me safe thus far, 
 and grace will lead me home.

Amazing Grace, John Newton

The only way I can stand with any confidence in life is because of God's grace. The only way I will get to the end and still be standing firm is because of God's grace. There is no way I could do this on my own, to try to live a godly life. I am weak willed and too easily swayed and my instinct is to run or crumble at the first sign of trouble. It's all grace, changing my desires, pointing me back to God, showing me what he has already brought me through and helping me trust that he will continue to bring me through the dangers, toils and snares. 

There in the ground his body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious day
Up from the grave he rose again
And as he stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me
For I am his, and he is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ. 

In Christ alone, Stuart Townend and Keith Getty

Sin's curse has lost its grip on me! It's not going to win! Not because of anything I do, but because of what Jesus has done. As the next verse triumphantly proclaims: "No guilt in life, no fear in death - this is the power of Christ in me." I can't adequately describe what comfort these words bring!

We're always going to stuff up, until the day we die. None of us can do enough to be right with God. Nothing we do takes God by surprise. How incredible then that despite all that he sent Jesus to make it right! How incredible that I can be confident that nothing will separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:39)

To paraphrase Newton: "I am a great sinner and Christ is a great saviour". Understanding that makes all the difference. 

Friday, 20 December 2013

ruminations on, yeah, singleness

This article popped up a couple of times on my Facebook feed this morning and it was wonderful, so I reposted it: 6 ways to love single women in your church.

I think it's also worth highlighting the Driscoll post that prompted Lindsey to write her article - 6 options for godly single women wanting to marry. I thought it showed an insightful understanding of the complexities and difficulties of being an older single Christian woman, which are often don't seem to be understood by the people trying to minister to us.

Being a woman in this situation, I've at least considered all of Driscoll's options at some point:

  • Sin: I have made less than stellar decisions while trying to take matters into my own hands. "But at least I'll have fun!"*
  • Surrender: closed myself off to anyone and everyone and subconsciously tried to make myself less attractive just in case someone got the wrong idea (as if). "But at least I won't get hurt!"*
  • Settle: I haven't gone down this path, but let's just say at any rate it's not like there's a smorgasbord of choice, so I can see how it could be a temptation.
  • Suffer: yep. So easy to indulge in this.
  • Strive: My counsellor suggested if being in a relationship was so important for me, I ought to go where the guys are, and go to events and blah blah blah. She said I should get onto online dating sites, which made me want to run for the hills (it works for some, but it's really not me).
  • Solace: this is ultimately where I end up, even when I waver through those other options, and I'm so grateful that I ultimately get back here. But it can be an elusive state if you don't keep it as your focus (ie, by being steeped in the Bible and godly fellowship). 
*not true

As I said on my Facebook post, I am blessed to live with my lovely mum, sharing the household as flatmates would, but with the benefit of a deeper mother-daughter relationship. I know what a blessing it is to have someone to talk to at the end of the day, to have someone I can ask "does this look okay?" before I leave the house, to have someone to hug when I just need a hug.

But we still have to navigate the world as single Christian women, turning up to things alone, starting at a new church alone (in mum's case), making big decisions about life as individuals, not as part of a couple. We each, in our own ways, have to deal with the question of "why are you living with your mother/daughter?" as though there is something wrong with us - me, for not striking out into the world and being an Independent Woman (which I did do for a while, btw); mum, for having to depend on her daughter. I know she feels guilty about the perception (wholly unfounded) that she's somehow holding me back.

Lately mum has been grappling with all the stuff that happens when you turn a certain age and become eligible for the pension and have to think about retirement and all of that. I am completely at a loss to know how to help her; it's not a stage of life I have had to consider yet. If she was married, her husband would presumably be able to talk all this stuff over with her and they could make decisions together. But as an older single woman, I can see how hard it is to have to think about all this stuff on your own. All I can do is listen and give her hugs when needed! (I'm good at hugs)

I don't really have a point with this post. Other than to say, if you are a praying person, please pray for me and any other single women you know, that we would remain in and strive for the solace that only God can provide.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

you're beautiful

I read this yesterday and it made me smile and want to cheer - Things no one will tell fat girls... so I will (fair warning for frank talk about sex stuff, but I think you can handle it). Jes's body positive talk is so positive, I love it.
When people say "you're gorgeous," believe them. I tend not to, and it's a crying shame. When people genuinely compliment you, it's because they really see it. Try to not dismiss their perspective as wrong and assume that you know better. They see all of you. We see our flaws. Believe them.

I was thinking about how much better I feel about myself since I decided earlier this year to put aside all the fat talk, all the "I need to lose weight", all the "I'll be so much happier if I get down to a size 12" (which, dear reader, is still considered fat). An ad for The Biggest Loser came on TV last night and mum remarked, "the problem with shows like this is that there's this unspoken implication that all the person's problems will be solved when they're thin. But there's usually another underlying reason why they put on that much weight in the first place."

Now of course I still have problems and am not blissfully happy, whether I'm dieting or not! But I have to say, I do not feel the slightest bit guilty, nor do I miss that part of my brain that was always calculating food, worrying about numbers, stressing about when I could next eat. I put on a little bit of weight, but it didn't balloon by any means, and it seems to have now plateaued (I'm only guessing based on how my clothes fit - and they fit fine!). I love being able to share in tasty food at work with my colleague Tiff, who gets very excited about food. I love being able to cook wonderful things and enjoy them.

We were also watching Nigella last night (Tuesday seemed to be the night for all the celebrity chefs wheeling out their Christmas shows). I absolutely love Nigella, for her delight in food, her campy sensuality, her sense of fun. Part of her appeal (as has been noted in just about everything you've ever read about her) is her curviness. How different she would be if she was rail thin and all muscles, like say, Madonna (edit to add: I used Madonna as an example, because she and Nigella are of a similar age).

I guess that's why articles like Jes's and her photo project (there's a link in the article), and people like Nigella are important. It's that thing of seeing yourself reflected in the media that is around you, so you can go "oh. I'm not an abnormal freak. There are plenty of people like me out there...I love how they look...maybe I look okay too! I don't need to change to be an acceptable human being." (That goes for anyone who has any type of 'difference', whether it's race or gender or whatever)

Obviously, it would be an ideal world if we didn't have to worry about appearance at all. But that's not the world we live in. I'll quote Jes again:
You're not stunning despite your body. You're stunning because of your body. There is a distinct difference. I grew up in a culture that would deem "unattractive" women as "special spirits". A degrading categorisation that implied that the only thing worthwhile was whatever was inside. Well, yeah. We are all much much more than our bodies, but our bodies are a beautiful part of us too. Beauty comes from the inside AND the outside.  I am of the firm belief that every person is beautiful, and so this leaves the inside to be the part that is the most telling when it comes to true "beauty".

Monday, 16 December 2013

Modified Haru

I know it seems a funny time to be crocheting with the temperatures being what they are, but I wanted to finish this little jacket. It's basically Doris Chan's Haru, but modified to be a shorter cropped bolero instead of a long cardie. It's good for balancing out the air conditioning at work.

I do like the long version, but basically I ran out of yarn. I bought this yarn last year in Berry when I was visiting missions over the Christmas break. I had crocheted a top but it turned out to be very unflattering, unfortunately something I couldn't predict until I saw where the stripe in the yarn ended up.

It's a pain, really, because you spend a long time on making something and when it doesn't work you feel like it's been a waste. But I love the colours in this yarn, and there was nothing wrong with the yarn itself, so I decided to repurpose it. Unfortunately, either the type of yarn or my stitches meant it was really hard to unravel. So I pulled as much of it apart as I could, but ultimately I didn't have enough to make the longer Haru.

The pattern was pleasing, as with most of Chan's patterns. The shell pattern is a lot more forgiving than a straight single crochet. The stripe is still a little weird - well, the really bright red one, it's the only one that's really obvious. But I actually don't mind the offset nature of it. I think when it gets a bit cooler I might make another Haru in the longer style.

Sorry about the lighting in the pics too...I meant to do it while there was still daylight but was so mashed after work I had to have a lie down instead.

Pattern: Haru by Doris Chan
Yarn: Riot DK by King Cole (colour 406)

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Waiting for the Lord

Struggling at the moment. Still not that well with the virus, though I did make it to the office today for the first time this week. Have been feeling really melancholy this week; probably post-big-event comedown as much as anything, which enhances sad feelings and general feeling-sorry-for-myselfness.

When like this, I tend to feel just so tired. Not a lack of sleep tired, but a bone weariness, finding it hard to continue on the path I've chosen, just wanting to give up and lie down in the dirt and not to care what happens next. 

My dear, dear friend (and partner in marketing) Sammi came over and brought me flowers, had a cuppa and prayed with me yesterday.

(Side note: I really can't explain how wonderful a gift unexpected flowers are. Don't ever think the recipient won't appreciate them. Unless they're allergic, in which case...I can't help you there.)

She wrote Isaiah 40:11 on the card with the flowers, which prompted me to go and read the whole chapter. It was nourishing for mind and soul. I was especially comforted by God's bigness and his patient, tender love for me, who is such a small and rebellious thing. 

At this end of a difficult year, I rejoice that God is the one who gives me the strength to continue walking forward on his path...because I know I just couldn't do it on my own. And I give thanks for the people he puts around me to spur me on. 

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. 
He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. 
Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; 
but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. 
Isaiah 40:28-31

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Our first Spire Market!

So the first Spire Market happened! It was lots of fun. The other stallholders were lovely and had some beautiful things for sale. Everyone set up their stalls in a professional, attractive went pretty much as well as we could have hoped for a first go with only a month's notice.

Well, it would have been nice to have lots more people through. We didn't have a crowd at any point, but a steady trickle of people. We'll have lots more time before the next one (in late March) so we'll be able to publicise it better and hopefully get lots more people in.

I sold a fair amount of stuff and saw lots of lovely friends - some who came from quite a distance. I got so much pleasure out of creating things and thinking up ideas for future products. So I think all round it was a good venture!

By the way: I have a few things left for sale, in case you didn't make it on Saturday. I'll be setting up my Etsy shop too for stuff that I make in between markets, but I'll keep you posted about that.

Unfortunately, since Saturday night I've been completely out of commission. I got the virus that poor mum was knocked out by, so once my body knew it didn't have to do anything else, it completely gave up. I was in bed, mostly asleep, for the next 48 hours, and am only just starting to feel human again. The fever has gone but I'm only able to function for about half an hour at a time before I have to lie down again.

Oddly enough, while I'm lying in bed, all I can think about are the next things I want to sew...

Monday, 2 December 2013

busy bee

Well I've been busy, sewing purses and bags and making bath salts and things in jars for the market. I really hope lots of people come and it all goes well - we only have eight stalls, as that's what we got insurance for, but I'm confident that the quality of what is on all the stalls will mean there is plenty for people to buy and enjoy. Also the hall can't really fit more tables than that, so if we expand we will have to go outside and into the adjoining room.

Anyway. Baby steps.

Sewing has been so great. My room is an absolute bomb site, with bits of thread and offcuts all over the floor and piles of fabric on the cutting table, but it's the mess of creativity so I don't really mind it. I guess it's my studio really, with a bed in it.

The good thing about sewing is that it keeps my mind on hold, and keeps my hands busy. I'm dealing with some stuff at the moment that is painful and sad, and although I'm feeding my brain good stuff when I read my Bible or listen to people like Tim Keller speak, sometimes my brain needs to just rest. But if I'm not doing something, unhelpful thoughts just whirl around and get me nowhere.

So sewing it is. And Psych. It's silly and mildly amusing and I don't have to devote much attention to it, so can just have it on in the background.

My current favourite verses are Lamentations 3:22-25:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.