Friday, July 30, 2010

A Heartfelt Gift

Thank you to everyone who left a comment in this week's giveaway. I have a choice of two cookies for our winner: the pastel sugar cookie above or the patriotic cookie below. Our winner has a son and a daughter, so I wonder which she will prefer? Maybe one of each ... .

Congratulations to comment #23, The Birdhouse! Leave me a comment, and we'll be in touch.

I hope your weekend is full of sweet surprises!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Heartfelt Food Resources

I hope you are enjoying this week's creative felt food feast! Here are a few of my favorite felt-crafting resources on the web.

  • Felt Food 101: American Felt and Craft's blog offers a great series on creating felt food, with helpful information on choosing materials, learning common stitches and putting it all together. Check out this five-part series here.

  • Sneak Peeks: Connect with American Felt and Craft's facebook page to see project photos and find out about shop promotions and giveaways. My children were thrilled when I won the birthday cake pictured above from AFC.

  • Videos: Lilly Bean Play food offers several helpful video tutorials here.

  • Free Patterns: Keeper of the Cheerios has a huge round-up of links to free felt food tutorials. Find this impressive link list here.

  • Felt Food Market: Etsy has some amazing options if you would prefer to buy felt food. A few of my favorite shops are onenonly88, buggabugs, nicolaluke (visit her blog here) and MeMeCraftwork.  
Be sure to register for my felt cookie giveaway. The winner will be announced tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Heartfelt Dream Dessert Buffet

Are you ready for some amazing felt food inspiration? All of the sweet treats featured in this post were made by Andie, a talented mom who discovered a passion for all things felt when she decided to make some play food for her daughter. That passion has grown into American Felt and Craft, an informative felt-crafting blog and unique online shop.

Can you believe how realistic these desserts look? AFC has some amazing products to bring felt projects to life, like the hot fudge glue drizzled over the chocolate goodies above.

Along with heirloom-quality felt and patterns, you can also purchase felt-crafting kits, like this berry sweet strawberry charlotte.

Visit the AFC blog, where Andie will show you that felt crafting is easy as pie. Along with useful tips and tricks, you will find free tutorials like the adorable cherry pie pictured above.

Now through August 25th, American Felt and Craft is offering a sweet deal to readers of A Little Loveliness. Use the code "Lovely" at checkout, and a 20 percent discount will be automatically applied to the highest-priced item in your cart.

Photos used with permission from American Felt and Craft.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Heartfelt Hamburger and Chips

This is the hamburger and chips I made for the July/August issue of Christian Woman -- a happy meal with extra value, for sure. To make this classic summertime meal, cut circles of felt for the patty and buns. The top bun circle should be slightly larger to give the bun a crest. Sew a few "sesame seed" beads to the top circle, if desired.

Then stitch the buns and patties, leaving a small opening in each. Stuff with batting, and stitch closed. Add a few stitches to create tufts in the patty.

Of course, a hamburger needs all the trimmings. I will post some helpful links later in the week, including some great resources for stitches commonly used in making felt food. Shown above, a tomato slice made from two circles of felt joined with a blanket stitch; lettuce leaves cut from two shades of green felt joined with a running stitch and pulled tight to pucker; and a square of orange felt cheese.

Finally, let the chips fall where they may by machine sewing rows of zigzags on yellow felt, then cutting out potato chips.

 Be sure to visit yesterday's post for a felt cookie giveaway. Tomorrow, some amazing felt food inspiration!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Heartfelt Cookies

You have been so sweet to "suffer" through my recent devotional series on suffering that I thought I would take a break to share some fun treats I have been working on this summer. I enjoyed exploring the world of felt food for a recent Christian Woman article. Appreciated for its aesthetic appeal and environmental friendliness, felt food is just plain fun.

These sweet little felt cookies are so simple to make. I was able to make the three cookies pictured from one sheet of off-white felt and scraps of pink felt. I used a blue fabric pin to trace circles (two per cookie) onto the felt. A white ramekin from my kitchen gave me a good size circle and afterward served as storage for the pink, green and turquoise beads I used as sprinkles. I cut out all the white circles, then cut icing shapes from the pink felt. Then I stitched a variety of beads onto the pink felt icing before stitching the pink felt to a white circle. Next I stitched the two circles together (right sides out), leaving a small opening. Finally, I stuffed the cookie with batting and stitched the hole closed. I rinsed the blue pen marks away, and these precious little cookies were ready for playtime.

Your comments are such a treat! Leave one below to enter to win some felt cookies of your own, and I will announce the winner later this week.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Lessons in Suffering: Our Undoing

"Oh, my friend, it's not what they take away from you that counts. It's what you do with what you have left." -- Hubert Humphrey

"I just don't feel like myself," I have moaned repeatedly this summer.
And it's true. This woman who spends so much time in bed, her bedside table littered with prescription bottles and get-well wishes, bears little resemblance to the more active person I perceive myself to be. This new woman moves so slowly, calculating each muscle movement required to roll over and sit up -- scarcely remembering the nights she would tumble out of bed as a new mother, waking to find herself already on her feet upon hearing her baby's cry. This new older woman walks haltingly, each labored, deliberate step a reminder of how far she has to go.
This isn't me, I want to protest.
The me I was -- the me I know I ought to be -- is much more involved in family life. She bathes her girls and slips bows into their hair. She monitors her boys' computer time and steers them to outdoor activities when they need to burn some energy. She goes to the grocery store and tries new recipes. She does a lot of laundry. She is not a great housekeeper, but she tries. She stays up too late working on craft projects and anticipates each new day as an opportunity to make memories.
In short, she does stuff.
So many of us feel most natural and productive when our lives are in motion. We take to heart passages like Colossians 1:10, desiring to "walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work." We pour ourselves into the roles God has given us, and pour ourselves out for others every day. Sometimes we may feel tired, frustrated or overwhelmed by our service, but for the most part we find joy and purpose in using our talents to bless others.

We may begin to define ourselves by our actions. This can be helpful in living purposefully day to day, but detrimental when circumstances change. Periods of illness or financial hardship can be even more challenging when we cannot serve in the way we are accustomed. When we find our identity in doing, seasons of "undoing" can be our undoing if we are not careful.

When I am tempted to discount my spiritual significance during this season of rest, I need only think of my grandfather. I never knew Papa as my mother remembers him -- a well-read college professor who loved the outdoors so much he walked to school each day.

Growing up, I loved to hear stories about Mother's childhood days. She would laugh recalling how her sister learned a lesson about greed when she raced the other kids to the breakfast table so she could claim the biggest blueberry muffin Papa had made, only to discover that the largest one had raisins instead.

Papa took an active roll in church, college and family life until a massive stroke nearly killed him. The next few weeks were tenuous as he teetered between life and death, doctors unsure how much of his former abilities he would regain. Months later he returned home, paralyzed on one side of his body and confined to a wheelchair. Over the next 13 years Papa's health continued to deteriorate, and he spent the last years of his life confined to bed.

Yet even as his world grew smaller, his faith in God grew bigger. He accepted the drastic changes in his lifestyle without complaint and inspired the rest of the family with his spiritual focus. And although his professional teaching career met an abrupt end, Papa was one of the greatest spiritual teachers of my life.

It is true that often actions speak louder than words, and serving others brings fulfillment and joy. But we can still bear fruit even in seasons of undoing. Galatians 5:22-23 reminds us, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." Whatever our circumstances, all of the attributes mentioned as fruit of the Spirit are still within our reach when we cling to God.

At yesterday's follow-up visit with my neurosurgeon, he told me I will need at least six more weeks of recuperation before I might be ready to start physical therapy. That means another month and a half without bending, lifting, twisting or straining. Although my doctor says healing from this back surgery will be slow, he feels confident that I will recover and learn to manage the remaining issues.

Knowing that I should return to the person I was helps me look for the blessings in this season of rest. Right now I can draw closer to God with more uninterrupted time in my day for Bible study and prayer. Although not physically able to accomplish tasks I usually do for my family, I can be more emotionally available for one who wants to snuggle or read a book. And as I am blessed by those who serve me, I can encourage their good intentions and express appreciation for the love that surrounds me. And I can let this season inform my service to others when I am well.

But what if I don't recover?

Could I still be me?

I would not be honest if I said I wouldn't face discouragement and frustration if I couldn't return to my normal level of activity. But thinking back to my dear grandfather, I know that even if a season of rest stretches into years, God can still shape us into the people He would have us be.

The truth is that if we surrender to Him each day, we can please Him whatever our circumstances. And when we enter a season of rest, we can find ourselves doing His will -- even in the undoing.

"Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing" (John 15:4-5).

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Lessons in Suffering: Little Lights Along the Way


"Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around." -- Leo Buscaglia

I must admit, this summer has been one of the most difficult times of my life. Recovery from back surgery has been slow and painful, as we have explored a variety of therapies to stop the painful muscle spasms that serve as daily reminders of instability in my spine. Besides feeling guilty for the strain my recuperation has put on our family life, I also feel pulled to be with my extended family this summer. I have yearned to sit with my mother, who is still on a ventilator and dealing with myriad complications after a grueling stem cell transplant. I have wanted to assist my aunt, who is undergoing aggressive treatments for lung cancer. And I long to surprise my sister by walking into her hospital room to hold her newborn baby, scheduled for delivery tomorrow.
This summer has been one of the most difficult seasons of my life. But in the midst of all the pain, worry, guilt and uncertainty the past few months have brought, I have realized something profound.
I am OK.
Despite all the backaches and heartaches, deep down in my soul I feel peace because I know that God is with me. That peacefulness comes from -- not great faith on my part -- but extraordinary faithfulness on His. Psalm 46:1-2 proclaims, "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea."
Recently a friend and I were talking about how even in the darkest days, God gives us blessings along the way -- little candles to light our path and let us know that He is with us. Lamentations 3:22-23 says, "The Lord's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness."
He has been with me throughout this journey, and His footprints look like those of the many people who have come alongside and walked a little of the path with me. Some have fallen in step to let me know they are praying. Others have linked arms with me, offering empathy and counsel as we talk about our similar struggles. Many have carried my burdens, shouldering responsibilities of cooking, housework and childcare. Still others have brought beauty to my path, blessing me with flowers, gifts and cards of encouragement. All have brought the glow of their Christian light.
Jesus said in Matthew 5:14, "Ye are the light of the world."
Consider the beautiful imagery of walking through the darkest passages of your journey, joined by other Christians -- all gathering their lights to show you the way. The image of all those little lights coming together from near and far, over hill and dale, is even more beautiful when we realize that together we don't just light the path of one who is suffering. Together, we illuminate Him.
Jesus continued, "A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven" (verses 14-16).
We do not always know where the path will lead or when darkness will fall. But if we trust in God, we can be sure He will lead us, blessing us daily with little lights along the way.

"Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies" (Psalm 36:5).

Monday, July 19, 2010

Lessons in Suffering: He Is There


"Who will tell whether one happy moment of love or the joy of breathing or walking on a bright morning and smelling the fresh air, is not worth all the suffering and effort which life implies." -- Erich Fromm

I have heard people express discomfort to feel the world rushing by when they are in crisis -- to know that life keeps going and Earth keeps turning even when their own world is in turmoil. I experienced this odd sensation myself a couple of years ago when Joe became very ill and was rushed from our small community hospital to a more metropolitan facility for emergency gall bladder surgery.
Following the ambulance through rush-hour traffic, it was difficult to keep pace with the paramedics. I kept up with the ambulance for most of the drive into town, but the distance between us grew as traffic thickened and more cars crowded the lanes between us. As we approached the interstate, I watched the swirling red lights speed into the distance while I sat several cars back stopped at a red light.
Looking at the traffic stalled around me, I realized as a tear rolled down my cheek that no one in the cars around me knew that the ambulance weaving its way into the distance held the only man I have ever truly loved.
I looked at the drivers around me, considering where they were going. There was a businessman in the turning lane to my left, waiting impatiently to merge onto the interstate. Up since 5, he had endured a hectic day of meetings. He had put out one fire after another at the office all day, and he still had one more appointment before he could head home. Ahead of me, a mini-van rumbled with activity and chatter as several school-age children headed to soccer practice, their mother making mental notes about the afternoon's agenda as she called to the children to use their indoor voices. To my right, a young woman glanced at the clock, trying to decide if she should head to the gym as planned or give in to her craving for a caramel frappe instead. Her cellphone interrupted her thoughts, and she smiled to see that he did call after all.
All those people driving along life's highway -- focused on work; in the throes of raising their families; hoping this could be the start of something special. 
Feeling the world rush by me as I sat in traffic, I felt alone in my grief. And yet I felt strangely comforted as well. How many times had I crossed over that interstate before, my heart and mind full of my own thoughts and plans? Even in the midst of Joe's health crisis, I realized how blessed I am to have cruised through most of my life, blissfully unaware of the road blocks that lay ahead.

Realizing that Earth keeps turning even when we are suffering brings comfort when we realize that life can go on because God holds the future in His hands. The Bible reminds us that God is sovereign (Psalm 103:19), faithful (2 Thessalonians 3:3) and unchanging (Malachi 3:6). When we understand these aspects of His divine nature, we can trust His promises to care for us.
  • "God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1).
  • "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).
  • "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28).
  • "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze" (Isaiah 43:1-2).
When we find ourselves stalled along life's highway -- with traffic tangling, roadblocks looming, dreams crashing, red lights swirling in the distance -- we can feel comforted knowing that He is still in charge. And even in the midst of struggle, if we open our eyes, we will see that His blessings still surround us. Above us clouds roll across a beautiful blue sky. Wildflowers bloom along the roadside. And even on our darkest days, the sun will rise and set.
God knows. And He cares. Though the world rushes on, He is there. And that makes all the difference.

"[A]nd, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world" (Matthew 28:20).

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Taste of the Tropics

I have been in withdrawal from baking this summer! These tropical cupcakes I made earlier this year were perfect for the beach.

I found these pretty fruit candies at TJ Maxx a few months ago. You can pick your own here.

I hope one day soon my house will be filled with the scent of freshly baked cupcakes cooling on the counter. I'm ready to make some memories that smell like buttercream icing!

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Heart at Rest

I don't think I have ever gone this long without blogging! My recuperation continues. My surgeon says the recovery process will be slower than most patients, but he is still hopeful for a good outcome.

I was surprised last week when cards started pouring in from the East Hill Church of Christ in Pulaski, Tenn., until I received the sweetest letter from one of the members. Pamela Christopher shared these beautiful thoughts with me, which I hope she will not mind my sharing. She gave me such a wonderful perspective on suffering, and I think it can be a blessing to you as well.

Lying in bed can be quite trying, but I pray your sickness will prove to be a blessing in disguise. An illness pulls us out of the rat race of human existence and allows time for introspection.

Just as the rests in a musical score are as important as the notes that are played, so can the rests in our lives be as beneficial as all our frenzied activities. If you look back over the melody of your own life, undoubtedly you can understand how beautiful the rests have been.

It has been said that for health and wealth to be appreciated, they must be interrupted. We all tend to take a good back for granted when we are well.

"Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily" (Isaiah 58:8). 

I'm praying that whether you find yourself in a season of busyness or rest, that your heart rests in the assurance of God's abiding love today.

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