liluga - love isn't love until given away

"Loving God means doing what he tells us to do, and really, that isn't hard at all." 1 John 5:3 NLT

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Card Writing Ministry

As a busy working mom with a large family, I often feel overwhelmed by the commitments of my daily life and feel that I do not reach out to others in ministry as much as I would like to. I took this concern to the Lord in prayer. It went something like this - “Dear God, you know how busy and crazy my life is (or at least I perceive it to be), and that I really want to be part of a ministry to serve others. What can I do that won’t pull me away from my responsibilities to my family, but will allow me to minister to others in a tangible way?”
The answer I received was to use my talents (writing/card making) to start a “card writing ministry,” sending notes of encouragement to those in need.
This answer resonated deep in my heart because years ago I was going through a very difficult season in my life. I needed a lot of encouragement just to get through the day. During this time, I received in the mail several hand written notes from friends and acquaintances.  These cards were written just to encourage me and let me know I was being thought of and prayed for. They brought a smile to my face and somehow my struggles didn’t seem as heavy anymore. I have saved these precious cards and often pull them out and reread them. My heart is always touched that someone cared enough to take the time to find a nice card, write a personal note, and then send it to me.
As I was touched and blessed by the cards sent to me, I want to bless others in the same way. God has now given me a direction to do so.
The wonderful thing about starting a card writing ministry is that you can do it anytime, from anywhere. You do not have to abandon your family and it is actually a good example to have your children witness this and learn to do likewise. But most importantly, it is needed. The Bible teaches, in Hebrews 3:13 (NIV), “But encourage one another other DAILY, as long as it is called TODAY...” I want to be obedient to God’s word.
An added benefit to this ministry? I believe it is great therapy for the writer. When I send someone a card, I have so much fun either picking it out or creating it. It takes my mind off my problems as I think about the joy it will bring to the recipient. Plus it gets me into scripture, as I look for verses to include in my cards.
So what are we waiting for? Let’s get started.
The most important step of all is this: Pray. Ask God to place someone on your heart. Just start with one person. When God gives you a name, you will know it. I often will sit in church on a Sunday and I’ll see someone and I will sense the Holy Spirit tell me they could use an encouraging word. Sometimes it is someone I know well; often it is someone I am only acquainted with.
However, do not be limited to those in your church. God has recently put someone on my heart who is not a Christian. I admit it’s easier to reach out to those like us, but far more challenging to reach out to those outside our circles. I do not believe that a kind word sent out in love is ever a bad thing.
My favorite thing about writing cards is picking them out or making them. I can entertain myself for hours at the card shop reading all the cards. I also love being creative and can spend hours creating my own cards.  Some I will make on the computer, using my own photographs, others I make using fun papers or fabric and thread.
Whether you prefer to purchase your cards or make them, think about the person you are sending the card to. What is their personality? Are they funny or serious? If they are really serious, send them a funny card! I love funny cards, and I am a very serious person. I think a funny card will bring a smile to the recipients face and lighten their mood. Then you can write something serious. To me, this is better than sending a serious card and then trying to say something funny yourself. When in doubt, be conservative. Most times, a pretty note card will do just fine.
Once you have your card, you’re half-way there! Now comes the hard part for most of us. What to say? My advice, pray first for the right words and then start writing. People want to hear from your heart, not something generic.
Always begin with addressing the person by name - “Dear Alice…”. Then follow with your message. You do not have to write a lot, but do write enough to show it’s personal and that you care. It can be as simple as “I am thinking of you and believing in you”, or as long as you wish. Write like you are talking to the person. Acknowledge the struggle they are going through and include a prayer for them. I personally like to add a scripture to the card that speaks to their situation, but remember, this is not a place to get preachy.
The last part of the writing is the sign-off.  This is always a little challenging for me. Do I  use “love” or “from” or “sincerely”? How about going to scripture for some inspiration? The apostle Paul always closed his letters with a blessing. For example, his closing in the book of Philemon says “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit” (NIV). Go ahead, be endearing and sign-off with a blessing.
 Now for the easy part: Put the card in the envelope, address it, put a stamp on it (let’s support the US Postal Office!) and send it on its way. 
Congratulations, you have just begun your own card writing ministry! I pray God will bless you as you minister to others.
A Final Note
When sending cards to people don’t expect a response back from them. You may desire to hear that they received it and were touched and that your efforts were appreciated. Or you want them to write back and do likewise for you. That usually doesn’t happen. But that is OK, because you are doing this out of love to encourage someone. You are giving a gift that needs no reciprocation.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

A Silly Little Bookmark

One of my favorite memories of growing up was our family’s frequent trips to the public  library to check out books. Whether we went by car with my dad or on our bikes, my sister and I  always came home with a stack of books to read. I am still an avid reader and now my kids and I are the ones making several trips a week to the library. For me, there is nothing better than a good book to read. 
I also love to sew and hand embroider, and I am totally into using recycled wool for my projects. One day I combined my love of reading with my love of sewing and came up with this fun and silly little bookmark. I named him Norman and put him up for sale at my web-store.  My intention was to sell them to adults, however, a friend of mine was visiting my store and her son saw the picture of Norman and said he wanted it. So I wrapped it up and gave Norman to him for his birthday.  My own son, who’s twelve, saw it and wanted one also.  So I made him one named Charles.  My brother’s stepdaughter saw the bookmark and wanted one, too. She named him Wilson. Not only do kids love them, they are simple enough for them to make themselves.
Winter is a perfect time to start making these woolly bookmarks to use when cuddling up with a good book. With a stash of  recycled wool scraps, some old buttons and embroidery threads you will be ready to make a silly little bookmark. 

Felted Wool Scraps from sweaters or scarves (the tighter the weave, the better)
Two buttons, about 1/8”-1/4” in diameter
Embroidery Threads in different colors
Scraps of Fringed Trim
Embroidery Needle
Large Paper Clip
Hot Glue Gun

1. Make a pattern out of paper in the shape you want your bookmark to be. I made mine in the shape of an egg with the top cut off.  The size should be approximately 1-1/2” wide by 2” tall.

2. Pin the pattern to the wool and cut out a front and a back.

3. Position the buttons on the right-side front for the eyes and sew them in place with the embroidery thread.
4. Stitch a mouth with the embroidery thread.

5. Choose a fun piece of trim to use as the hair and baste it in place on the inside of the front at the top.

6. Using the hot glue gun, place a small amount of glue on the inside of the front and press the top of the paper clip in place to secure it.

7. Position the back to the front and pin together.

8. With the embroidery thread, stitch a running stitch around the whole bookmark, finishing the ends securely.

9. Give your bookmark a fun name and start reading!
Tips and Hints: 
©  Have fun! 
© These aren’t meant to be perfect.  Experiment with different wools, shapes, threads, etc. 
© Make a “memory” bookmark from a child’s or loved one’s clothing.
© Make a bunch and give them away!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Be Calm

“Be calm, no matter what befall you. Rest in Me. Be patient, and let patience have her perfect work. Never think things overwhelming. How can you be overwhelmed when I am with you?

“Do not feel the strain of life. There is no strain for My children. Do you not see I am a Master Instrument-maker? Have I not fashioned each part? Do I not know just what it can bear without a strain? Would I, the Maker of so delicate an instrument, ask of it anything that could destroy or strain?

“No! The strain is only when you are serving another master, the world, fame, the good opinion of men - or carrying two days burden on the one day.

“Remember that it must not be.”

This was yesterdays devotion from the book “God Calling” by A.J. Russell. 

I woke up this morning feeling very overwhelmed by all that I think I need to accomplish to make my life easier. Easier financially, emotionally and relation-ally. Do you know what? The worry of it all has not made my life any easier, only harder, especially on myself. It’s hard to accomplish anything when you are feeling overwhelmed and anxious.

The truth is, who am I serving? A quick look at my life and it would appear I am serving the world and man.  And not just carrying two days burden, I feel like I am carrying all of 2013 (and then some) in just one day.

Deep in my heart, I want to serve only God, but it’s hard to not feel overwhelmed by life and its challenges. Therefore, I have to make a choice, daily, that  no matter what today or any day brings, I will trust Him, rest in Him and wait patiently on Him.  Praise God that we have this choice!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A New Day

I just took the dog for a walk and snapped this picture of my street. Today the sky is overcast and everything looks a little gloomy; perhaps tomorrow the sun will be shining. Thankfully, each day is new and different.

"Great is his faithfulness, his loving kindness begins afresh each day." Lamentations 3:23 (The Living Bible)

As I begin not only a new day, but a new year, I need to remind myself of the truth that this verse speaks.   When we humble ourselves before the Lord and seek him daily, it doesn't matter what happened yesterday or any other day in the past. Each new day is a fresh new start with God. His mercies are NEW each day, and he is faithful to forgive us of all our mistakes and failures. What a wonderful way to start a new year!