Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Up and coming summer/fall project!

We're heading back to Boston in just a few weeks... back to our little 100 year old cozy apartment! Jose and I have been thinking about what we can do to brighten up the place a little more when we get there. This time last year, we had no idea we'd spend so much time indoors (this was obviously before our first snowy winter!). We now realize it'd be a good idea to work on making our living room a little more bright and cheery (it's so dark when the sun sets around 4pm for 1/3-1/4 of the year!). By the way, that picture on the left, that's Boston... well, it's really the bridge we cross (on the T) to go from Cambridge to Boston.

Before we considered changing up the color scheme, we thought about just buying a new and bigger couch. Then we realized it'd be better to enhance the overall look of the apartment in a more affordable and fun way, by hand (we'll also buy a chair instead)! We'll make pillows, frame some of the colorful artwork I've collected, and paint some of our furniture. That last one is probably going to be the most challenging, since neither of us has painted anything before. But thanks to the internet (and the nice folks at Home Depot who gave us a few helpful tips), it isn't going to be a nightmare but an adventure... we hope :)!

I'm so excited! Now we have to decide if we are going to strip one of the items of furniture we have (a plain solid wood desk in our bedroom) or just sand it down before painting and priming it. Hmmm... I'm still a bit worried about using paint stripper, so we'll see how we move forward with that project. The other items are a little cheaper/smooth and made of mostly particlebored, so we'll only have to prime and paint those (says Home Depot).

Here are a few helpful furniture painting tutorials/sites that I've come across so far (feel free to share any tips if you have them! :).

By the way, I just emailed the blogger (Cindy) and asked her a few questions. She was nice enough to respond very quickly! I asked her about stripping (paint! :P silly!). She says she's read of people successfully painting furniture without stripping or even sanding, priming is the most important thing! She says the paint will chip if you don't prime first... good to know. Also nice to know I don't have to strip the desk, I think I'll just spend a day sanding it down.

(They chose to just sand and it looks pretty good to me :)


Artsparx.com is another great place to check-out...
Info on sandpaper

Tips from the folks at Home Depot:
For particleboard you can just prime and paint; be sure to use an oil based primer for particleboard, though. Water based can cause it to swell and bubble. Oil based by Behr/semi-gloss is a good one. If a hard veneer surface is involved, you can go ahead and use water based paints. But make sure the primer is also oil-based if you ware using oil-based paints. There are primers that say they don't require a sanded surface before applying, but it's a good idea to sand it a little bit anyway, to rough it up so the primer adheres.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Peace


Building is
tearing down a foundation
made of the uneven ideas we've collected
to hold ourselves
up.
Falling down
to our knees, that is moving
forward.
Walking confidently, we trip.

I've walked so far, there are blisters on my soles.
A blister on my soul
growing smaller in the sun, my goal.
Permanent scars on my palms, not nails.

I arrived at the major crossroads
When I abandoned myself at the fork in the road,
Giving up the heaviest load.

The other day I was thinking about how much I used to like writing poetry. I still enjoy it, but now I only write a handful of poems a year. Writing used to be more of a cathartic experience for me, but I think I focused too much on the negative. These days I write when I feel thankful or grateful for the way things are, and the way I've been blessed.

Though it might not sound like it, this is a "happy" poem. I don't usually break down my poems, but feel it's a good idea to do it sometimes, so I'll do it now :).

To put it simply, this is a poem about God and growth. So many times we think we have all the answers. We get caught up in ideas and theories that don't offer us very much hope, when we really think about them. As a result, we develop a blind confidence that doesn't become evident to us until we're hurting. But it's when we cry out for help that we're strengthened. This is what the first stanza suggests.

I've done this many times, like the second stanza says. Scars? I definitely have those, I am human after all -- no godly nails on these palms (last line). The blister on my soul represents my weaknesses. The sun? The light, God. The only one who can strengthen even the weakest of souls.

The major crossroads? The cross and everything it represents. That's where I rest my heaviest burdens.

Monday, July 20, 2009

A story of two monks

"I need oil," said an ancient monk, so he planted an olive sapling. "Lord," he prayed, "It needs rain that its tender roots may drink and swell. Send gentle showers." And the Lord sent gentle showers. "Lord," prayed the monk, "my tree needs sun. Send sun, I pray thee." And the sun shone, gilding the dripping clouds. "Now frost, my Lord, to brace its tissues," cried the monk. And behold, the little tree stood sparkling with frost, but at evening it died.

Then the monk sought the cell of a brother monk, and told his strange experience. "I, too, planted a little tree," he said, "and see! It thrives well. But I entrust my tree to its God. he who made it knows better what it needs than a man like me. I laid no condition. I fixed not ways or means. 'Lord, send what it needs,' I prayed, 'storm or sunshine, wind, rain, or frost. Thou has made it and Thou dost know.'"

Story taken from this book (again :)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Vintage projects and lots of sewing!

Best place to get vintage fabric? Estate sales! I always feel bad digging through the personal belongings of folks who've passed, but I'm sure they'd appreciate that someone is putting their stuff to use, at least I'd feel that way. And guess where this fabric is from? Old sheets and pillowcases! I plan on using them to make new curtains for our room when we get back to Boston, but I think I'll have quite a few left over for throwing a few tote bags together... or maybe a skirt!

Great tutorial for using pillowcases? Check this one out, it's from Craftzine. Instead of making a shirt, I decided to make a skirt with an elastic waist (still can't do zippers on clothing!)... then a summer tote bag...


All of the sewing classes I signed up for in Cambridge were canceled last year, I was so disappointed :(. Lucky for me, I've been able to take 2 different sewing classes here in Houston for the price of one! One of my new favorite Thursday night hangouts? I love the look and feel of Sew Crafty. How cute this craft studio is! And they're moving to a bigger studio next month! I can't wait to take more classes next summer when I come back to Houston.

image from here.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

More thoughts on forgiveness

...forgive your brother from your heart.
Matthew 18:35

...you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.
2 Corinthians 2:7
I did not want to get out of bed this morning, and it's my own fault :). I lowered the AC to about 65 degrees last night. Even though it's a hot July here in Texas, I love falling asleep under a pile of blankets (about 3). How do I survive a brutal summer with that habit? I lower the temperature in the apartment considerably. But I lowered it too much last night. So instead of jumping out of bed this morning, I nestled further into my cocoon of blankets and came up with an action plan.

This is all I came up with, it isn't very impressive: Run to the thermostat when the AC stops, the break between the cold blasts, then jump back into bed for just a few more minutes (or until it no longer hurts to think about leaving the cozy cocoon).

You know what I realized? I hate to admit it, but that's kind of how I am when it comes to giving and accepting apologies.

Don't forgive until you're ready, that's what most folks will tell you. When the tables are turned, the world will say you don't have to apologize to anyone. That last one sounds pretty good (until the guilt sets in). At that point you can choose denial or acceptance. But I know I'd rather stay under the covers a little longer. Saying I apologize or I forgive you can feel as uncomfortable as crawling out of bed when the room is freezing cold. But the day will go on whether or not you choose to leave the cocoon you're struggling to get out of.

Forgiveness is the basis of Christianity, both giving and receiving it. I've often heard it said that true freedom comes with knowing Christ. Knowing him means acknowledging our weaknesses as human beings and asking for forgiveness on a daily basis. But the bible also says that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ; we're not supposed to dwell on the times we've failed (Romans 8:1). So it's easy to see how we can know freedom when God forgives us. We're no longer in bondage to our guilt or sin and we can easily move forward. But how can we be free if we also do not forgive? This is the other part of the deal.
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
Matthew 6:14
God calls us to forgive and, like all commandments, God has our best interest in mind when he tells us to do it. Lack of forgiveness alters our ability to make the right choices. For instance, take the cycle of abuse. Abusers usually come from abusive homes, and if they fail to acknowledge that abuse as sin, and also forgive their abusers, the cycle will inevitably continue. The abused abusers won't see anything wrong with the way they were treated, and they will treat others the same way. OR they will see something wrong with it, but they'll hold on to the resentment and that will interfere with all of their relationships.

I don't know everything, I am just a twenty something year old who is still trying to figure it out one prayer at a time. But I am sure of one thing, every day I have to remind myself that I've been called to forgive anyone who's ever wronged me. When I'm reminded of something ugly, I really have to make a conscious effort. I tell myself that I have already forgiven the person and I should not let their past actions interfere with my present life. I take lots of baby steps. Choosing to forgive was just the first one. Even that took a small miracle because I couldn't do it on my own; I still don't know anyone who's done it alone.
And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.
Mark 11:25

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.
Colossians 3:13

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Taking a moment...

Earlier this morning, I read about The Simple Things blogging event on my friend Tracy's blog, Pink Purl. It's now 4 PM and the hectic day is finally beginning to wind down. I'm usually the least thankful on days like this because I forget about the simple things. Now's the perfect time to list them. Seeing these simple things typed out in black and white letters seems to make them more important, bigger, or even more powerful than all the other insignificant events of the day. After reading through the list, I feel more calm; the good things are more concrete and tangible. The events that contributed to a hectic day? They become part of the soil beneath the wildflowers, simple things we love the most.

Big, suffocating hugs.
The feeling of dough between my fingers.
Surprises, giving and receiving them.
The first snow but also stepping out of a Texas airport in the middle of summer after freezing all year in Boston =0).
Little drawings my brother gives me.
Snail mail!
Smiling at random passers by.
The smell of books, old and new (is there a candle out there that captures this scent?).
Receiving and giving mixed CDs.
Staying up late to chat in bed with the hubby.
Homemade with love anything, from food to socks :).
Christmas tree and burning fireplace smell (not christmas trees burning in the fireplace!)
The cozy feeling of the sun on my back when I step out of a cold pool.
The smell of cilantro (reminds me of my grandmother's food).
Hearing an old song on the radio I haven't heard in 5-10 years.
Trips to big libraries.
Mixed fruit in a bowl.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Exciting!



Lexi from Love. Obsess. Inspire. featured me today in her new printable goodies posting series! Yay! So excited! Check it out here.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Freedom

They took away what should have been my eyes,
(But I remembered Milton's Paradise)
They took away what should have been my ears,
(Beethoven came and wiped away my tears)
They took away what should have been my tongue,
(But I had talked with God when I was young)
He would not let them take away my soul,
Possessing that, I still possess the whole.

Helen Keller

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Stuck

Here are two separate but related quotes from a book I've been reading; such insightful information. I've been posting it everywhere:

[Contentment is] a soul sufficiency, a peace separate from circumstances. Most of us base our contentment on our circumstances, on our feelings, or on other people. However, true contentment is separate from our circumstances. Contentment is a state of the heart, not a state of affairs.

When we take over and try to control what happens, we take our focus off the One [God] who is in control and put our eyes on our circumstances.

Though I completely agree with those statements, I think another reason why we can't be content is because we aren't willing to live in the present, obviously. It's so much easier to be resentful toward someone or unhappy about something that happened to us in the past than to forgive the person and move forward. Funny thing is, even though it's very human for us to like the false feeling of security that comes with "thinking" we've got it all under control, in these moments we're far from in control; we're slaves to our past when we can't acknowledge our present blessings. Even if we're not mentally dwelling on the former events, if we are stuck in the same mindset, we're just stuck. We can't become better people, we can't help anyone else, and we really can't be content or at peace.

It's during these times that we think God hasn't listened to or answered our prayers, so we also become resentful toward him; we pretend we don't need him when we're in the most needy phase of the healing process. I don't think having these feelings is wrong because they can open the door to healing, that's why I consider them part of the process, but when thinking negatively becomes part of our everyday routine, the event or person that triggers the feeling becomes an idol and there's no room for God. We then take matters into our own hands and things fall apart, if it's not evident in our life then it becomes evident in our thought life/hearts. We become calloused and unable to love.


(There have been moments in my life when I've let myself get stuck. I continued praying during those times, more out of desperation than anything else, but there was still a tiny bit of faith that God could work with. I'm still very flawed in this sense, but the healing process is life long because I am human. These are just some things I've thought about along the way. Funny thing is, they didn't actually occur to me until I tried helping a few others going through a similar situation. I realized I needed to start following my own advice! :)

Life is hard. We pray. But God isn't going to come down and shout from the rooftops: "Hey look, here's your miracle; here's your answered prayer!" We're the vehicles he uses to answer our own prayers. But if we're driven by negative thoughts, he can't steer us in the direction we're supposed to go. (Yes, bad pun! But at least I didn't say Jesus, take the wheel -- that would've been really bad. :)

It even makes sense that the answer to our prayers is revealed to us in the moments when we can see how the obvious blessings of our present override the memories of a difficult past. But we can't see how our prayers have been answered when we're asking God why he hasn't answered our prayers; ungrateful souls are blind.


So whether the memory is attached to a person or event, it all comes down to this cliche: life's too short to dwell on it. There will be blessings we'll miss out on and there will be people we'll miss out on loving, even if one of those people is the person who hurt us. I've had to make amends with those who've hurt me so that I could love them through forgiveness; sometimes that meant just apologizing for the small (or big) hurtful role I played in the situation without receiving an apology in return. But in the end, they aren't going to be here forever and neither am I.

When we're face to face with God, he's going to ask us if we lived for him -- that means loving the way he loved us, that's what we've all been called to do. If I can't say that I loved everyone I came across while on earth, because there was resentment preventing real love from existing in my life, then I didn't really love anyone at all, not even myself.
 

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