GIft #1060: Muffin Tin Challenge

Welcome to the results of the Muffin Tin Challenge, hosted by Heather Powers of Humblebeads.  At the start of the year, she hosts a challenge to fill a muffin tin with beaded projects and make as many as you can.  This is my first year to jump in and I really enjoyed the push it gave me to create as many pieces of jewelry as possible.  And tonight you get a tour of my projects over the last week or so.  Here’s how I started the challenge:  muffin tin loaded.

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The first projects I created were also fulfilling other challenges for the Art Bead Scene and my personal calendar challenge ( I need to finish up a few months from last year!)  The star of this collection is the enameled mushroom by Anne Gardanne.

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The necklace is paired with jasper rounds, Czech beads, Czech flowers, and a disc bead from Humblebeads.  And it’s finished off with faux leather cording.

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I love the earrings for this necklace so much.  The colors are very striking and the Humblebeads disc beads are so rich in color and pattern.  They just needed a few golden floral drops to finish them off.

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I had some leftover beads and made a coordinating bracelet using the other matching disc bead from the necklace.

Next up was a pair of simple earrings I needed to make to go with the November Art Bead Scene necklace I made last fall.  I ran out of time to do earrings before Christmas activities set in.  These are made with tiny silver owl charms that are similar to the Green Girl owl I used in my necklace.

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Also last fall I was working on a necklace using some tourmaline beads that I purchased at the bead show.  I didn’t have a design that I loved, so I put it in the muffin tin challenge to rework elements of the design and get it finished.

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I’m very pleased with its simple elegance.  The brass leaf was a charm that I bought from a vendor at the bead show who had tons of great hand-made findings, charms, and pendants.

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The earrings I made to match the necklace are delicate with little lacy leaves hanging from the leftover tourmaline beads.

The next set of projects I made were from a couple of kits that I purchased from Humblebeads to go with an online fall retreat class she hosted.  Things got busy and I hadn’t had time to complete all the classes.  These are made from her bangle bracelet tutorial and I made all six in a few hours.  My favorite part was attaching the beads at the end.

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This bracelet set is full of dark purples and  and accented with leaves, acorns, and squirrels.

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This is a more summery set, with peach and yellow beads, sweet bird nest, and little flowers.  I can’t wait to wear them!

My last set of jewelry is hot off the pliers as I just finished it up a few moments ago.  The focal point of this necklace is an amazing fall birch scene by Humblebeads that was in a bead pack I bought last year.  I’ve been admiring it for some time and found a perfect set of glass beads in my stash.

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The piece was originally a toggle, and I tried to use it as a working toggle, but that disrupted the design flow and made the necklace look awkward.  Instead, I wired the toggle bar in place and used it as a pendant.  I accented the beads with tiny navy seed beads, to bring out the blue in the pendant.   To give some interest and break up the beads a bit, I added a birch bead on one side and a navy bird and wood chip.  Those are also from Humblebeads.

And finally, here are the earrings I made: birch beads, Czech glass, and brass leaves (also from the bead show).

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I’m really pleased with this set too.  I love the golden hues of autumn and the birch scene in the pendant just makes me so happy.  As much as this reminds me of my favorite season, I don’t think I’ll be waiting till fall to wear it.

14 pieces of jewelry done in about a week!  Thank you all for stopping by to see the creative excitement and the finished pieces.  I’m already looking forward to doing this again next year.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #1059: A Collection of Random Thoughts

Hello everyone!  I hope you had a good week.  I thought I’d check in on the eve of the weekend seeing as how I’ve been quiet all week.   It’s been a good week, but I’m tired and still don’t have any new photos.  Most of what I’ve been working on is “in progress” and I have other blog posts planned for them.  I’ve seen other bloggers just list their random thoughts; those are always enjoyable to read and that’s truly about all I can come up with at the moment.  So enjoy some creative ramblings below:

  1.  When I am bored or indecisive about which hobby to pursue, I combine them and start matching beads to my yarn that’s near at hand.  For example

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Isn’t that stunning?  It makes me so giddy to see them together.  The beads are from Humblebeads and are some of her new releases called “Bramble Birds” (ah, I love that name) They are subdued moody tones that are reminiscent of a faded wildflower field on a winter afternoon.  The yarn is from Kat’s Kettle and it’s a skein I ordered last fall when I was enjoying the golden foliage of Spring Mill.  I had literally just envisioned a yarn exactly like this when I was hiking, and then I saw it on her website!

2.  We are awaiting our portion of Winter Storm Jupiter which has already prompted a winter advisory alert from tonight through Sunday afternoon.  My weekend gathering has been postponed till next week, so I don’t have to get out in the nasty weather.  Instead, I’ll be working on this:

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It’s a top-secret surprise.  So you’ll have to forget I showed you the picture until a later blog post when the whole story can be revealed.

3.  I was browsing Instagram tonight and before I knew it I was following a nature/jewelry designer, 5 embroidery artists, and 5 illustrators!  Instagram is such a rich source of inspiration.  A couple of the artists I’m now following are botanical illustrators, which is something of my dream job.  I can’t draw for beans, but I would love to take lessons and become a scientific illustrator.  There’s a special certificate program for this at the Denver Botanic Gardens and I dream… I’d also love to take up sewing, embroidery, and pottery.  I want to explore way more than I have time for.   And that’s why Instagram is great – it allows you to experience and appreciate the journeys of others.

4.  In addition to secret project #1 mentioned above, I have a jewelry challenge I’m participating in called the Muffin Tin Challenge, in which you collect the supplies you’ll need for a project in a muffin tin and the create lots of projects at one time.

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I’ve done 6, which is the minimum, but I have a few more items I’d like to get finished up by the deadline on Monday.  I’ll be blogging about this soon because I’ll need to link up the pictures to the challenge site.  This is hosted by Heather Powers of Humblebeads, who has done so much to fuel my love of jewelry-making.  Her beads are works of art and they make me aspire to her level of excellence in my designing.

5.  I learned today from a co-worker that my place of employment is hosting a knitting event on Wed of next week as part of our “week of wellness” or “WOW” for short.  That’s definitely what I thought when I heard a group was getting together to knit at work – WOW!  Unfortunately, the time is during my jewelry class starting next week so I won’t be able to attend.  I did consider not going to the class so I could stay to knit and meet like-minded fanatics at work, but I’m going to be responsible and go to my class.  (this tells you a bit about how my creative hobbies stack up – I enjoy all of them, but when push comes to shove, I’m a knitter at heart.)

6.  And speaking of knitting….

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These are my favorite winter colors!   I love the palette of soft taupe and greys.  This shot happened serendipitously as I was knitting with my leg crossed over the other and I noticed a feather from my knitting bag had drifted onto my lap.  I’ve got feathers stashed in every bag I own, so I’m often pleasantly surprised with one peaking out to say hello.  I loved how it matched the yarn and my boot warmers. (I’m easily pleased)  The knitted project is for my winter swap – it’s a cowl and is completed and blocked now.  It only awaits buttons which were procured from my yarn shop yesterday.

7.  My last tidbit.   Tonight I made peppermint hot chocolate with chocolate milk.  I always make it with plain milk, and then I had a “eureka” moment to try it with chocolate milk.  It was amazing!! It was extra rich and creamy and was delicious.  Now I’m definitely in the mood to settle in for a winter weekend!

I hope you all stay safe and snug this weekend and enjoy some quiet time enjoying whatever you like best.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

 

 

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GIft #1058: Christmas swap continued

Today I thought I’d show you what all was included in the package I shipped off to my swap partner.   This is partly because 1) I just blogged about the swap so the timing fits 2) I had a long day at work and need a post I don’t have to think heavily to write, and 3) because I haven’t been taking many pictures so I’m raiding the old photos.  But I do have a wonderful time planning swaps for people and I like to share it with you too!

Now, rule one of any decent swap is you must include something yummy in the package.   In this case, it takes the form of some specialty Christmas-flavored chocolate bars and a sampling of hot cocoa mixes (with adorable animals on them).

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My swap partner and I shared many interest in common, including a love of paper crafting.  So I sent her a couple of stamp sets from one of my favorite companies.  She enjoys making ATCs so I thought the affirmative labels would be perfect for her art.  And the nature garden set… well, obviously, that was because it was the sweetest nature set I’ve seen in a long while.  That hedgehog… sigh!

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And I also included a variety of supplies for paper crafting – a paper pad, notepad, decorative sticky notes, and washi tapes.  Please notice how coordinated they all look – that was not an accident.  I wandered around the craft store for quite a while until I found an ensemble of items that matched.  It took time, but oh it makes me happy!

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The ornament I included for her was one of blown glass that I purchased on my most recent trip to Cinci.  We’ve found an art museum that we love and went to visit their antique Christmas ornament displays.  Blown glass from Germany from the 1890- mid 1900s were popular ornaments and are now prized collector items.  We saw some lovely trees dressed up in vintage guild.  This ornament was perfect because it was a reminder of the exhibit and it was an owl!

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Another rule of knitting swaps is that knitters like knitting items.  stitch markers, needles, tape measures, notions, yarn, project bags… knitters love it all.  I was thinking about making some stitch markers, but then I found these beauties on an etsy store I just happened to visit.

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These are Beatrix Potter stitch markers.  Each one features a different character from her books.  This was the first gift I procured for my partner – she had mentioned that she loved Beatrix Potter – and I do too!  I hope she enjoys knitting something special using these markers.  She also mentioned that she liked stationary items and I remembered that I had some sets of Beatrix Potter stamps that I received as a gift some years ago.  Voila… a perfect gift!   I handmade a set of cards for her.

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I wanted a somewhat-professional, letterpress style of card, so I elected to keep things simple and just stamp the image and sentiment on a plain card (It was hard to keep patterned paper off the cards! I think these might be my first “plain” cards) And I tried out some new watercolor pencils for coloring them.  I may or may not have watched Miss Potter several times while creating these.  (I can neither confirm nor deny such rumors – you’ll have to judge).

And finally, here’s the knitted item I made for her:

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She loves light blue colors and I had several skeins of a soft bulky alpaca that was slated for donation because I can never figure out what to do with bulky yarn.  But she had this beautiful cowl pattern in her favorites and I figured it was a perfect match.  Plus it will be warm and snuggly during the damp British winters.  (That’s me modeling it for effect)

And here it is all wrapped up in its festive trimmings.

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I found the tiny bottlebrush trees in the dollar bin at Target and I’m still remarkably pleased with my ability to actually coordinate them into the wrapping of a couple of gifts.  I was anticipating a great battle with the little guys, but they cooperated with the ribbon exceedingly well.

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A parting shot before it all went in the shipping box and flew overseas.  So that’s a brief summary of about a month and a half of work of planning, knitting, coordinating, and wrapping.  I love doing the swaps so much.  They are one of my favorite knitting activities and I’m so glad I had the chance to participate in this Christmas one.  I’ve learned my lesson and am now stalking my online group at least weekly to see when the next one will start.  They’ve sometimes had a spring themed swap and I don’t want to miss out!

Blessings to you

Sarah

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Gift #1057: Christmas Swaps

I’ve been trying to get back into the routine of things.  You know, the stuff like remembering you have a job, how to drive the car you’ve not been in for nearly 14 days, where my work badge is… that sort of thing.  Tuesday morning saw me back on the road to work dark and early – a place I’d not been for 3 weeks.  I got nearly to work (which is a 40 min commute) and realized I left my computer at home, so I got to go back home, pick up the wayward computer, and go back to work again.  Nearly 2 hours later I was ensconced at my desk trying desperately to remember what I was doing way back in 2016.  It was a pretty busy week for not having a lot to do and I’ve spent most of the day today taking it easy and crafting.  But the bright highlight in the week was I got to open the highly anticipated Tiny Owl Christmas swap package!

This is a swap with one of my online knitting groups and I’ve participated for a couple of years and really enjoyed it.  Unfortunately this year, I missed the sign-ups, which happened super early in October) and was devastated when I realized the swap was already closed.  I was so very disappointed and mentioned how sad I was on the forum.  One of the moderators let me know that another of our members also missed and asked if we’d like to “meet” and swap with each other.  We gratefully did and enjoyed getting to know each other.  She lives in England and I was thrilled to have a swap buddy across the pond for the first time.  Our Owlie rules are that we have to include something owl-themed in the package (because that’s our mascot), an ornament, and something hand-knit or hand-made.  We opened our packages from each other this week and here’s what my wonderful new friend sent me.

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First up: a wonderful house ornament with lots of fabric applique.  I think she may have made this; it features a homey scene of fireplace, tree, and garlands.  She knit this sweet little stocking and filled it with lip gloss.  Adorable!

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She sent me a CD of Christmas favorites – I love this and think it was such a clever, personal touch.  Also – British flag tissues!!  How awesome are those!  This little felted envelope from the North Pole was filled with wooden owl buttons which will be great to use on a knitted project.

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Her package delivered a breath of spring as well.  she queued right in on my love for birds and gifted me a set of watercolor bird cards and a happy pen of bright florals and tiny birds printed all over it.  And there’s a set of floral clips for keeping my paper scraps collected in high fashion.

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I was already feeling incredibly spoiled, but there were still more packages in the box!  Including this fabulous trinket box with an owl tile on the top.  This is going in my room on a bookshelf.  And there’s a pair of antler ornaments that will look great on the tree.

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Snuggled at the bottom of the box was this amazing set of mini-skeins.  I’m still awestruck with these.  The colors are beautiful earthy hues that remind me of late summers of faded leaves and flowers and golden brown grasses and seedpods – one of my favorite times.  Plus, the yarn is from British wool and spun and hand-dyed in Yorkshire.  I love England (it’s my number 1 place I want to visit) and it’s incredibly special to have such a meaningful gift direct from England’s own sheep and artisans.  The yarn has told me that it wants to be a cowl, so I’m looking for the perfect pattern and every time I wear it I will think of my new friend in England.

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I’m so grateful for her kindness and generosity.  Her package was well worth waiting for and was a bright spot in the week.  I love participating in these swaps because of the love and care that is shared between total strangers who become friends.  It’s a special experience and this was one of the best.  I’m so glad that we were able to swap together and fill each other’s Christmas with a bit more love.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #1056: A New Year

Welcome to 2017!  It’s strange to be writing a new year and for the next several weeks I’ll be messing up the date, but a brand new year stands before us.  There will be choices, opportunities, experiences to fill our days again.  One of the rituals I look forward to is selecting a new calendar.  I get one of Colorado scenes for work so I can gaze on my beloved state when I get stressed.  And for home, I like to get a calendar by an artist that I enjoy.  The past several years these have come from Anthropologie and I’ve made jewelry based on each month as a fun personal challenge.  This year it’s a little different and my jewelry inspiration will come from an older calendar.  And for my 2017 calendar, I’ve selected one by a favorite artist – Pamela Zagarenski.

2017 Limited Edition CALENDAR

This is the cover.  I was first introduced to her work at a gift store in Denver and each time I visit I come back with a few of her cards.  Her artwork is beautiful and reminds me of long-lost places and exotic adventures.  They are imbued with a dream-like quality with a bit of whimsy and thought-provoking.  I’m looking forward to spending the year with her work.  This art for January’s month is paired with a quote by Rumi that says “Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder”.  I love this quote and it’s a perfect way to start the year.  This admonition is a call to live beyond oneself; a call to be light, to be a refuge, to be a source of help.  In short, it is to be a blessing and joy to those we meet on life’s path this year.  This is the message I’m holding in my heart as I enter the new year and the prayer with which I cover my life: that God will draw me close to Himself, allow me to reflect the light of His character, and use me to bless and share His love with those around me.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #1055: In the Garden

Hello again!  I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas.  I’m back from my holiday travels to visit family.  I came back with a sinus infection (a Christmas present I hadn’t planned on) and have been taking it easy the past few days.  The meds are helping and I’m feeling much better today.   I’ve spent the days taking care of some things around the house, knitting a lot, and resting.  It’s hard to believe that 2016 has come to an end and in just a few hours we’ll be welcoming in a new year!  I’ve been seeing lots of social posts and pics on Instagram and it’s interesting to see all the different reactions people have to a new year.  Some are giddy and excited about unknown adventures and the hope of something new.  Some are looking forward to learning new things, exploring new places, re-envisioning their lives as happier and fuller.  Others are pensive and sad; afraid to lose the safe and known.  And still others are worried about the future and what it will hold.  I wish I were more like those who can greet an unknown future with cheerful abandon and just find joy in what might happen.  That’s not a natural attitude for me.  I’m a fearful person and when I’m not afraid, I wonder what I’m overlooking that I should be fearful of.  So I can completely sympathize with those who feel nearly overwhelmed by the thought of a new year.  However, I try to keep things into perspective.  A lot will happen that will be out of my control; there will be happy things and new adventures and there will be difficult challenges and probably some uncomfortable things.  That’s just the nature of life.  But when I get fearful, I will remember that nothing that happens in 2017 takes God by surprise.  He holds it all and He holds my heart and life.  One of the ways I try to remind my heart of that truth is to look for the ordinary miracles that surround us.  And so a few days ago I took a walk through the gardens to see what was going on – this is one of the best places to look for miracles.

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In about 2 weeks, I will have reached my winter-tolerance level and will be raving mad for anything green.  That kind of attitude makes January, February, and much of March pretty difficult for me. The Virgina Creeper kept its leaves quite late until the year and then dropped them all nearly overnight.  The blue berry clusters left hanging on the bare vines make a striking contrast against the brick.  I’ll be keeping a hawk’s eye on it to see when little green buds develop.  Is next week too soon to expect them?

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The hydrangea are resplendent in their faded glory.  Soft petals are now tissue-paper ghosts of summer but they still thrill my heart.  I love hydrangea in every season and in some ways, even more in the fall/winter months than in high summer.  These dried blooms keep me company and remind me that spring is coming.  Not everything in the garden is slumbering though.

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The feather ferns are still maintain a fair bit of green despite being rather fragile and not withstanding freezes well.  I love this shot because it looks like a secret entrance to a ferny, green wonderland full of dragonflies, frogs, and lilies.  If only I was small enough to crawl in… what wonders might I find there?

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Lilac bushes are already putting out buds, in anticipation of early spring.  The lilacs were a bit confused and were about to start putting out flowers in late November until a hard freeze reminded them that they needed to go through winter first.  We had a very warm fall and so those first freezes didn’t happen until December and they were a bit harsh.  The magnolia bush has also loaded up buds on her stems but she was shy about being photographed and refused to focus for the camera.  Sigh… sometimes plants can be so temperamental!

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But my special joy was finding new growth in the hellebores!  These beloved plants will grow right on through the winter and if we’re lucky will even start blooming soon.  They are such precious gifts in long hard winter.  They keep blooming and growing, reminding us that even in hard places life can still thrive.  As we begin the new year, their new growth is a comfort to me that life and beauty can be found in any season.  May the new year bring you much joy.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #1054: Promise of His Presence

And I will make a covenant of peace with them, an everlasting covenant. I will give them their land and increase their numbers, and I will put my Temple among them forever.  I will make my home among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people. And when my Temple is among them forever, the nations will know that I am the Lord, who makes Israel holy.” Ezekiel 37:26-28

They will be my people, and I will be their God.  And I will give them one heart and one purpose: to worship me forever, for their own good and for the good of all their descendants.  And I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good for them. I will put a desire in their hearts to worship me, and they will never leave me.    Jeremiah 32: 38-40

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Rev 21:3-5

On Christmas Day we celebrate the ultimate gift – the promise of His presence.  The message of Christmas  a very simple one – God is with us.  But it is profound enough to shake the foundation of the earth and change every life and the course of the future.  The fact that God is with us alters everything.  We are not isolated accidents in an impersonal universe; we don’t struggle through meaningless lives; sorrow, fear, and loss are not our ultimate destiny.  God is our companion through life – He sees us, He loves us, and He never leaves us.  The heartbeat of God ever since the dawn of creation has been to be with His people.  Over and over throughout Scripture God promises to dwell with His people in relationship with them.  I love the wording God used in the two promises from Ezekiel and Jeremiah.  So many of us struggle with a right view of God: we tend to see Him as hateful and harsh, disconnected and uncaring.  But let His words sink into your heart.  He promises a covenant of peace, He makes His home with us, He will be ours and we will be His.  He will give us a heart to love and worship Him, He will do good for us, we will be with Him forever.  These are some of the most precious and tender promises of God.  On days when I struggle with discouragement that I don’t love or obey God like I should, this verse speaks comfort and assurance to me.  He has promised to give me a new heart that will adore Him.

And then on a quiet, nondescript night, the promises came true and God made Himself in the likeness of man.  A strange reversal of original creation, when He first made man in God’s image.  Now the roles were reversed and God was coming to undo the curse of sin.  God became flesh and dwelled with us.  Who can fathom it?  In Him we were permitted to see the glory of God and experience His character as full of grace and truth.  The older I get, the more incredible the Incarnation becomes to me.  The more cherished my God becomes as I contemplate all He does to be with me.  God is not a distant, impersonal force in the heavens.  He is the One who abandons heaven to live our existence just to be with us.  This truth alone is more than enough, but God doesn’t stop there.   He isn’t content to dwell with us in our broken world and forgive our sins.  His plans stretch into eternity.

His coming in the flesh was the first phase; just as “let there be light” was the first order of creation, but it was only the first fruits of what was to come.  In like manner, the Incarnation, the death, and resurrection of Christ are described as the first-fruits of the new creation.  Having secured our release from the curse of sin, God intends to remake us in His image; giving us a new heaven, new earth, new hearts, new bodies that are glorified and that sin will never touch again.  Revelation speaks of the ultimate, eternal fulfillment of His promise to be with us.  All things will be made new and we will enjoy eternal communion with our God and Father.  We will be forever at home.

I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas.  May the promises of  a Savior, a Righteous Branch, and His peace, light, and glory shine on you and fill your heart with joy.  And may the promise of His presence comfort and sustain you in the coming year.  God is with us now and forevermore.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

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GIft # 1053: Promise of Glory

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you.  Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.  Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy;  to you the riches of the nations will come.  Herds of camels will cover your land, young camels of Midian and Ephah.  And all from Sheba will come, bearing gold and incense and proclaiming the praise of the Lord. Isaiah 60: 1-6

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”  After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.  When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.  On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Matthew 2: 2-10

Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:  “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace.  For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” Luke 2:28-32

Another favorite passage of mine is featured on today’s post.  I used these first few verses from Isaiah 60 on my Christmas cards a few years ago because it’s so beautiful for describing Advent.  You’ll notice right away that it’s similar to the Isaiah 9 passage from yesterday.   This prophecy describes in more detail the continuing theme of light shining in the darkness.  These words from Isaiah were meant for the nation of Israel as a comfort that although they were in dark times, God had not forgotten them.  Large portions of Isaiah are devoted to promises of future glory for Israel.  We read today that nations will flock to Israel to rejoice in the light that shines there.  Israel will be filled with joy as they fulfill their role of displaying the glory of God to the world.  Isaiah speaks of herds of camels ridden by visitors bringing precious gifts of gold and incense to worship the God of Israel. Doesn’t this sound like a familiar part of the Nativity narrative?

In truth I don’t know whether the Isaiah passage directly hearkens to the visit the Magi make to the Christ Child, and I’ve never heard anyone make that connection before, but the similarities are striking and they fit together.  The stories of the Magi are shrouded in mystery, and perhaps for this reason they are one of my favorite aspect of Nativity.  Through the centuries they have captured our imagination.  All we really know of them is that they saw God’s light and pursued it.  They were learned men from a culture distinct from the Jews, but they were familiar with their promises.  It is most likely that they came into contact with Jewish writings brought to their country when the Jews were scattered throughout Gentile kingdoms as prisoners of war.   The two New Testament passages today give the accounts of the only people who were looking for the Messiah.  Many knew about the promise, but only a few were actively engaged in seeking its reality.  Many saw the light of God from the star, but only a few came near enough to feel its glory rays.  These Gentiles in a foreign land were among those who pursued the light God provided and met with God Himself.  They saw the glory of God behind human eyes, in tiny hands and feet, and they fell down in worship.  That is the only response when we see the glory and light of God – overwhelmed gratefulness and awe at God’s character and love for us.

Simeon is the other individual we are told was waiting and actively looking for the coming Messiah.  An aging man, he spent his days at the temple awaiting the fulfillment of God’s promise.  When he sees the infant Jesus with his mother, he holds the child in his arms and offers worship and a prophecy of his own.  This child has been given in the sight of all nations.  He will be the light of the world to reveal God’s glory to all the nations, and He will be a special glory to Israel.  In the Jewish culture, the phrase “glory of God” was synonymous with His presence.  God’s glory resided in the temple as a physical manifestation of His dwelling.  So when Simeon describes Jesus as the glory of Israel, it is a way of saying that God has revealed His presence to the nations.

The glory of God is an integral part of all three of these Scriptures.  God’s glory refers to His character and personhood.  “Glory” is defined as high renown or honor, magnificence, and great beauty.  Jesus is the living revelation of God’s glory; He perfectly radiates every attribute that makes God worthy and beautiful.  But God’s glory is also an invitation to worship Him.  “Glory” carries with it a response; it holds the idea of worshipful praise, honor, and thanksgiving.  The revelation of God’s glory is a call to see God for who He is and fall at His feet with a heart of praise and thanksgiving.   Arise and come to the stable, for the glory of God has risen upon you and your Light has come.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #1052: Promise of Light

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.  You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy. Isaiah 9:2-3a

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:1-5

Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali— to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah:

“Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles—
the people living in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.”
From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” Matthew 4:15-17

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. 2 Cor 4:6

Today I get to share with you my favorite verse in the Bible – Isaiah 9:2.  Although not traditionally used at Christmas, I think it is the most fitting verse to describe Advent.  Indeed, if I had to use just one verse to sum up the Bible and the story of God’s interaction with man, it would be this verse.  “Light has dawned on those dwelling in darkness”  Just reading it thrills my heart with joy.  This evening I’ve found my own soul struggling with dark moods and I was feeling hypocritical knowing I would be writing about light while I was fighting with darkness.  But reading those words again fills my heart with such hope and love for God that the darkness is slipping away and I find myself turning towards the light of God’s love.  It’s the salvation story in microcosm; the act of eternity being played out in a single moment.

I love this collection of Scripture together.  The first words that God speaks are “Let there be light” and these verses reveal that God’s presence brings light to the universe as well as to our hearts.  The apostle John uses words similar to the original Creation account to describe the Advent.  The implication is that the One who spoke the worlds into existence was now entering His creation to bring His light.  Once His word spoke light; now His presence reveals it.  Christ, as the embodiment of God’s light, initiates a new creation to recreate us in His image. The first step is to banish darkness from the human heart and fill it with His light.

This is captured in the passage from Matthew where, in fulfillment of the Isaiah prophecy, Jesus starts preaching repentance to His followers.   The words of Christ are light to our souls and His call to repentance is an invitation to turn from our darkness and move towards His light.  It’s important to note where Jesus starts His ministry of reconciliation.  Matthew tells us it’s exactly in the region prophesied by Isaiah (and he quotes it for emphasis) and it’s in Gentile territory.  This was the term that Jews used to describe those who were not of their ancestry.  There were many Jews in Jesus’ day that took pride in their heritage and assumed that God’s promises were exclusively for them.  But Jesus takes up residence among the despised outsiders and gives His message of Good News to them.  The life and death of Christ are for everyone.  Christ draws all men to Himself and desires all to find true life in relationship with Him.  Whether you feel you are a child of promise like the Jews or an overlooked outcast like the Gentiles, God comes for you.   God’s family is a motley group of sinners from all backgrounds unified by a collective turning from darkness to face the light of God.

Paul address just such a diverse gathering in his letter to the Corinthian church.  Made up of  Gentiles and Jews, freemen and slaves, men and women, these believers were joined together on a journey after God.  They stumbled and fell, they weren’t perfect, but they trusted the One who promised them His presence and salvation.  He encourages these Christ-followers with a reminder that God has shined His light in their hearts.  And this light allows us to see Christ in all His glory, gives us knowledge to trust our Savior, and hope that we will dwell in His eternal light and glory forever.

As we celebrate the season of light in the deep winter, let us rejoice that the light of Christ is shed in our hearts. No longer do we dwell in a land of darkness for Christ has come.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #1051: Promise of Peace

For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.  He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. Is 9:6-7

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:  “Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” Luke 2:8-14

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,  through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  Romans 5:1-2

In the midst of war, a promise of peace is given.  That is often the way God’s word is delivered – unexpected, incongruous, impractical and saturated with hope.  To the beleaguered weary nation of Israel,  the prophet Isaiah shares the promise that the coming of a child will change everything.  A child will usher in a kingdom of peace.  Isaiah lavishes names upon the promised child that are now the familiar tones of Christmas.  “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”  These are hardly the characteristics associated with an infant, but then God has never operated according to human expectations.  They speak of an eternal kingdom rooted in righteousness and established in peace – the kingdom we’ve all been longing for through our war-weary days.

The next time words like these are uttered, it’s to a group of shepherds announcing the promise has been fulfilled.  We’re not told whether the shepherds recognized the echo of Isaiah in the voice of the angels.  I’d like to think they did and that their hearts thrilled with the knowledge that they were witnesses of God’s promise.   What we do know is that the shepherds received a personal announcement from heaven that the promised Prince of Peace had been born and the shepherds heard the heartbeat of God:  “Peace on earth, goodwill towards men”  This Child is destined to bring peace on earth, peace to the earth, peace to us.  Imagine the anticipation in the hearts of those who followed Jesus on earth, anxiously awaiting the day when He would rule, bringing peace to the nation and justice to their enemies.  Imagine the devastation they felt when the Prince of Peace was cruelly nailed to a cross and died a violent death at the hands of those He was expected to vanquish.   There’s no peace and again God does not abide by human expectation.   It’s much the same today – we read the words “peace on earth” as the world is exploding in war, terror, and violence.  Our reality is not matching up to the promise.

But then these words from Paul whisper into our hearts.  “Through Christ we have been justified; we have peace with God”  Apparent defeat on the cross fulfilled the very promise of peace.  Christ’s death achieved peace and has healed the great schism created from the fall in Eden.  Where once we were enemies of God, now we are reconciled.  No more do we need to be at war with God, at war with ourselves, at war with each other.  Through the peace achieved for us, we have a relationship with God.  We can enter His presence and stand secure that His purposes always come to pass.  We are invited to join the angel’s song and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  Peace on earth is coming as sure as the morning.  Standing in this moment of history, we can’t see it any more than Christ’s followers could at the foot of His cross.  But the resurrection was coming, and it is coming again.  If His death brings about our peace with God, His eternal life and kingship will certainly remake the whole world in righteousness, justice, and peace.  The last verse of It Came upon a Midnight Clear sums up this truth beautifully.

For lo! the days are hastening on,
By prophets seen of old,
When with the ever-circling years
Shall come the time foretold,
When the new heaven and earth shall own
The Prince of Peace, their King,
And the whole world send back the song
Which now the angels sing.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

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