Sunday, January 22, 2017

Sunday Musings - Missions

There are several definitions for the word missions, but the one that I typically think of and am referring to today is " the vocation or calling of a religious organization, especially a Christian one, to go out into the world and spread its faith." I've been thinking a lot about missions lately as one of the items on my 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 list is to go on a missions trip, so I recently chose a couple of books to read centered around this idea.
Of Stillness and Storm by Michele Pheonix is a novel about a missionary family in Nepal. The story is told from Lauren's point of view. She met her husband, Sam, at a short term Bible school during their college years. After several years of marriage and the birth of their son, Ryan, Sam feels called to go to Nepal to reach primitive tribes in the Himalayas. Despite Lauren's reservations about how the move would affect their son, they spend several years raising funds and commit to a four-year stint in Nepal.

The primitive conditions are difficult - no hot water, unreliable electricity, fierce rainstorms during monsoon season, etc. Sam spends three weeks at a time out ministering to the needy in remote areas, then one week at home preparing for his next trip. Lauren works at a job she does not find fulfilling, and Ryan becomes more and more distant and angry. In the midst of this, Lauren reconnects with an old friend on Facebook, and becomes emotionally entangled in his life and recent cancer diagnosis. Through flashback chapters, we learn more about Sam and Lauren's relationship, and through Facebook and chat messages, we learn about Lauren and Aidan's friendship.

[Spoiler Alert - skip this paragraph is you don't want to know what happens in the end!] The tension in this family becomes even greater when Ryan walks in on Lauren talking to Aidan on Skype. He is already struggling with the fact that his dad is gone most of the time, that he did not want to move to Nepal in the first place, and now he thinks his mom is having some kind of affair. The family has been in Nepal for two years and Ryan is 13-years-old when he attempts suicide, changing the family dynamics once again. Sam and Lauren both struggle as they wait to see if Ryan will recover. He does, and Lauren takes him home to the States for therapy and rehab . . . while Sam chooses to remain in Nepal and continue his missions work.

The author of this book is the daughter of missionaries and now advocates, consults and teaches on topics relating to Missionary Kids (MKs). In this novel, she is trying to shed light on the difficulties that some MKs encounter. This is not necessarily the case for the majority of missionary families, however, I found this book very disheartening and really wanted it to have a more satisfying ending. [Note: I received this book free from Booklook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review.]
In contrast, I Am Going is a non-fiction book reminding Christians that we are all called to spread the gospel. It does not necessarily state that it will be easy, but it is a more positive look at mission work. This is a short book, broken up into chapters about going on mission: with your church, to your neighborhood, to the nations, to your job, with your job, and anywhere. Both of the authors share examples from their own missions work over the years.

This is an easy-to-read book. It was informative, although I did not find it particularly exciting or motivating. The authors are both associated with Southern Baptist seminaries, so there is some emphasis on the Baptist denominations beliefs that would make this a good extra reading in seminary courses. However, those same ideas might distract others from the main message of this book - that we are all called to spread the Gospel. [Note: I received this book free from B&H Publishers in exchange for an honest review.]

Honestly, I'm not sure that either of these books were extremely motivating or encouraging as we look at opportunities for a missions trip. Instead, my motivation comes from the belief that we are all called to share the love of Christ with others and my desire to step outside my usual comfort zone in serving the Lord. There are several places we've considered going as we have missionary friends in these areas - Manila, Philippines; Kenya, East Africa; Andhra Pradesh, India. However, we'll see where the Lord opens a door (hopefully) in the coming year.

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.  
Matthew 28:18-20

Have you been on a mission trip? Please share your experience in the comments!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Blooming Grove, Mary Poppins & Friends

After sorting all those photos on my craft table yesterday, I was so excited to finally do some ACTIVE  scrapbooking! I had just read the Get It Scrapped Clean+Simple post, and I was able to use that INSPIRATION for my first layouts of the year.

I used Megan Blethen's layout as the beginning INSPIRATION for this first layout showcasing photos from my Bible journaling workshops at First Baptist Church - Blooming Grove last year! I added a few layers and changed things to fit my photos, but that basic grid design got me started in the right direction.

Next, I scraplifted Karen Poirier-Brode's layout design. I'm not sure I would call my layout "simple" as I ended up fussy cutting the title & Mary Poppins from a copy of the playbill. I also used distress ink over some of my papers after I realized that the bottom strip of houses drew the eye with its stark white background. This was a FUN page to put together.

And finally, I used Kristy T.'s one-photo layout as the INSPIRATION for my friends layout.

I was feeling especially crafty today and even took time to emboss those butterflies! I'm not an expert embosser, as you can see if you look closely at the large butterfly. (In fact, I stamped & embossed this one twice because the first time it looked worse!)

I think the stamp I used for the middle-sized butterfly was too detailed for my embossing skills, but the small butterfly came out just right.

It doesn't matter to me that the embossing is not perfect; I'm just thrilled to have three more memories preserved for our 2016 chronological albums.

Do you still have stories to tell from last year?

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

What's On Your Workdesk Wednesday #3

I'm getting ready to scrapbook! Yesterday I got a batch of printed photos and am in the process of sorting them so that I can spend this afternoon creating layouts. While I did a lot of scrapping last year, much of it was for custom scrapbook-for-hire projects, and I'm looking forward to being much more ACTIVE in recording our stories and memories over the next several weeks. Here's a look at my craft table.

On the left of the desk, you can see the new Carl paper cutter Robbie gave me for Christmas. All those photos cover FUN memories from August through November of last year, and those papers on the right are layout INSPIRATION from yesterday's post on the Get It Scrapped blog.

Now, I need to grab my memorabilia bin and add in the bits & pieces I've saved to go with some of these photos, then I'm all set to start gluing pretty pieces of paper together.

Are you doing any creating today? Be sure to head over to Julia's Stamping Ground to see what's on other workdesks around the world this week!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Monday's Mail Memo - Book Swap (Confetti, Joy & No Complaints)

Waving to all the Mondayers joining in with Sian this year as we share a favorite piece of mail from the previous week . . . although I'm (already!) bending the rules a little bit to share something I received  right before the new year. (Read on to see why I'm just now sharing it.)

2017 Book Swap with Brenda

Back in December, my sister Brenda and I decided to have a monthly book swap beginning in January. Brenda asked for books that are encouraging and FUN and motivating. I have quite a few ideas of books I think she'll enjoy, and my plan is to alternate between non-fiction and fiction throughout the year. Brenda felt like the biggest challenge would be hers as she tried to choose books that I hadn't already read. If you've been around my blog awhile, you know I'm an avid reader, so I'm looking forward to seeing what she comes up with each month.

We agreed to send our packages to arrive the first week of each month, and we both actually mailed our January packages before the new year. Robbie dropped my package into the mailbox at his office building on December 30, and later that same day I received a package from Brenda.

January Book From Brenda - A Complaint Free World

Along with the book, A Complaint Free World, she sent a Complaint Free bracelet and a cute envelope and note about this book.

This book is easy-to-read and quite motivating as it encourages readers to become aware of how much we complain. The bracelet is designed as a reminder and is supposed to be moved from one arm to the other each time the wearer finds herself complaining (or gossiping or criticizing or using sarcasm - all various forms of complaining). The author challenges readers to go 21 days without complaining, noting that it takes most people several months to a year to actually complete the challenge. I was glad that Brenda had written in her note to me that she wanted to share this book because it's something she hoped to accomplish someday . . . so I won't assume it's because I complain too much. :)

While I've decided not to try the 21-day challenge, I have worn the bracelet several times to help me be aware of my own complaining. I admit that I'm more apt to complain first thing in the morning when I'm not quite ready to start the day, when I'm tired, and when I'm hungry. I really enjoyed this book and it's definitely made me more aware of all the complaining that goes on each day in our world.

Here are a few points to ponder from the book:

What we call news is actually Bad News. We're encouraged to stop watching, listening to, and/or reading the Bad News during our Complaint Free journey. This is easy for me, as I've mentioned before, I rarely watch or listen to the news, preferring to get a once-a-day summary via The Skimm.

I invite you to consider how often complaining about illness might be an unconscious attempt to get sympathy and attention or to avoid doing something.

I love this quote from Charles H. Spurgeon that the author shared as encouragement to continue working toward the 21-days: "By perseverance the snail reached the ark."

Instead of complaining about a situation or social cause that needs to be changed, discern what needs to be done and then begin to speak in terms of what it will be like when the challenge no longer exists, when the gap is bridge, when the problem is solved; you will then excite people to join you in improving things.

I was thrilled to receive this book from Brenda (and highly recommend it if you haven't read it)!

January Book to Brenda - You Bring the Confetti, God Brings the Joy 

I was so excited for Brenda to receive the package I mailed out containing You Bring the Confetti, God Brings the Joy by Luci Swindoll. I found a box in our shipping supplies stash, adhered quotes inside, and filled it with paper confetti. I created a bookmark and also included a note to my sister saying that I hoped she found lots of ways to celebrate life in the coming year.

I sealed the box and added numbered washi tape along with confetti and book stamps. I actually forgot to snap a photo of it, but Brenda sent one when it finally arrived . . . two weeks later!!! I was so excited for her to get the book all packaged in the confetti that I was terribly disappointed when each day she texted to say "no package." In fact, I prepared another book and sent it out right before this one finally showed up at her house because I figured this package was lost between here and there (only 5 1/2 hours away in the same state!). I was thrilled when it finally arrived last week . . . and that's why I haven't shared about it before now.

You Bring the Confetti, God Brings the Joy is an older book, written in 1986 when the author was 64-years-old. I purchased this book at a Women of Faith conference in the late 1990s when I heard Luci Swindoll speak. She even autographed the book to me on the title page. It's a FUN book to read, although there are a few things that definitely date it as before the technology boom - she mentions calculators, using mail order catalogs to save time ordering gifts, and cassette tapes just to name a few.

The premise of the book is to celebrate life every day, and the various chapters give ideas for celebrating now, birthdays, mealtime, camaraderies, reunions, knowledge, work, accomplishments, imagination, beauty, America, and God. I especially like her reminder to learn just for the FUN of it and to celebrate your loved ones home. As I was re-reading the book before mailing it off to Brenda, I made a list of ideas for celebrating during my ACTIVE year, including celebrating my daily exercise (I actually applaud myself when I've completed a session here at home now!) and planning ACTIVE birthday trips and more outings with friends.

My favorite quote comes early in the book when Luci shares the party "scripture" she made up as a little girl: Verily, verily I say unto you: thou shalt find a party at the end of this street. Turn not to the right nor the left, but direct your steps toward it. Great will be your fun upon arrival. Walk ye in haste.

I also appreciate her reminder that: We are most appealing to others, and the happiest within, when we are completely ourselves.

I'm looking forward to this monthly book swap, and I'll be sharing the packages I send and receive throughout the year. Did you receive any happy mail this past week?

Friday, January 13, 2017

One Little Word - January

This week I've enjoyed working on the January prompts in the One Little Word class as I contemplate my ACTIVE year! I especially appreciate Ali's reminders that it takes time to develop a relationship with our words and that just having a word will not change our lives. It's up to us to put in the work to engage with our word throughout the year.

One of my goals this year is to ACTIVELY use my stash, so I chose an 8 1/2 x 11 binder (similar to the ones I used for FUN and INSPIRATION in previous years) to hold the materials and prompts from this year's class. (The binder is actually quite purple with pink & white flowers, but shows up bluish in the photo.)

I grabbed a 6x6 page protector for my first page in the album. The photo I chose to use is actually from December, but it was taken around the time that I decided on my word - an ACTIVE day of baking, cooking, entertaining a guest in our home, and hosting a dinner party for family. It was a FUN day and this photo reminds me of the good feelings I want to pursue during this ACTIVE year. Since I'm using purple and pink papers in this album, I printed the photo in black and white.

For the back of that page protector, I chose a pink patterned papers, purple letter stickers, and words from a Tim Holtz Ideaology sticker pad.

Luckily, Ali is provided materials in both a 6x8 format (to match the album she's using) and an 8 1/2x11 format (although this is the last year she'll provide that size). I printed the eight January prompt cards and cut them to fit in a 9-pocket page protector. I found a tag in my stash that I cut apart and used for the extra pocket. I added journaling and embellishments and really like the way this page turned out.

I don't have anything on the back of that 9-pocket page yet, but I'm sure there will be another prompt in the coming months that will work there.

I printed The Year Ahead and Intentions pages on pink paper and added my journaling with purple ink. I slipped this page into an 8 1/2x11 page protector.

Here's a peek at how everything looks when the album is open.

I'm pleased with the start to my ACTIVE year and album and excited about the year ahead!

I'm also excited that my sister Brenda is joining me in the One Little Word class this year. She's also started a new blog - be sure to click over and check out the cute photo she took to introduce her year of BALANCE!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Custom Wedding Album Video

The second custom wedding album I completed last month contained 46 pages filled with photos and memorabilia from the engagement through the wedding reception. I have a quick video walk-through of the album to share with y'all today. [If you're reading this in email, click over to the blog to view the video.]

A huge thanks goes to my Pun'kin niece Natashia who helped me record this video during her visit in December. Thanks for watching!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

What's On Your Workdesk Wednesday #2

Last week, my first time to participate in What's On Your Workdesk Wednesday, Julia commented...your desk is very this because of the staging, or is that how you work? That photo was staged, however I typically keep my table fairly neat. It does get messy when I'm in the midst of a big project, however I always clean up between projects.

Here's an overhead shot of my craft table today, which actually holds three projects.

On the left of the table is my 2016 Gratitude Journal, which I completed a few days ago. I haven't moved it to our Memories Shelf yet because I want to read back through it first. It's so much FUN to take time to enjoy finished projects, isn't it!

In the middle of the table, I'm working on the January prompts in the One Little Word class. I've chosen a binder, added a few page protectors, and printed the handout and other elements. I'm hoping to add my journaling, a photo and some embellishments later today.

On the right side of the table, I have my 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 mini-album and two photos that need to be added to it. This album has a page for each of the 50 items, and once I complete an item, I add a photo, the date, and two lines of journaling to the page. I need to complete the pages for my trip to the top of the Empire State Building and completion of the Gratitude Journal.

I'm hoping to have all three of these projects off my table in the  next day or two, then I'm planning to create some layouts!

Head over to Julia's Stamping Ground to see what's on other workdesks around the world this week!