O Holy Night!

December 23, 2012

“The Manger Scene” drawn by my little kindergartener

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine! 

“O Holy Night” is my favorite Christmas song. Whenever I hear it, my heart grows within me. I think it’s that amazing final crescendo of “OH NIIIIIGHT DIVIIIIINE” that grips me, every time. And, when it’s sung with perfect pitch and power, it’s truly breathtaking. Today, my church‘s talented music team led us in praising God to this beautiful work of art. The lead singer was flawless in hitting those notes and her passion for Christ behind the lyrics was clearly evident.

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
O’er the world a star is sweetly gleaming,
Now come the wisemen from out of the Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend! 

But, this morning at church, something new grabbed my attention as we sung this carol. I don’t remember ever hearing the version we proclaimed: “Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother. And in his name all oppression shall cease”. The words surprised me, because although this has been my favorite Christmas song for many years, the purposes of God in my life for abolitionist work is fairly recent. So, with my eyes opened wider to the injustices of our modern world, my song rang out in praise to God… and also in prayer for those around our world who are captives. May God set them free! And, not just free from physical chains. But, may this prayer be for any who are bound with sin’s soul chains that trap them from the true freedom that can only be found in Christ! What a beautiful freedom He offers!

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

I felt a little bit like this morning’s worship was a prelude to heaven. Wow. We get to praise this God, forever. The only God that came to us to draw us close to Himself.
No matter what your Christmas is turning out to be, I encourage you to look to Jesus.  The King that “In all our trials (was) born to be our friend. He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger.”  ”His power and glory ever more proclaim!” We truly have something wonderful to proclaim! The Savior of the world, Jesus Christ came just for us! Thank you, Lord!
John 3:16

Vintage Postcard Ornament Tutorial

December 15, 2012

If you are looking to make a unique Christmas tree ornament, this Vintage Postcard Ornament tutorial is just right for you! It is pretty quick and truly charming!

Supplies:

  • (Vintage) Postcards
  • Glitter Glue
  • Hole Punch
  • Ribbon

Pick your postcard. Punch a hole in the center near the top. The ribbon will hang from this spot.

I prefer vintage postcards, of course! (The date on the back of two of these is 1910!) Make sure to use a hole punch just wide enough to fit the ribbon you will use to hang your creation from the tree.

Apply Glitter Glue

Apply glitter glue to the edges of your postcard, and to any spots you’d like to highlight. The glitter may look a bit thick and goopy but it should dry flat and perfect! There are many color options, available.  Choose what works best for your postcard and according to your preferences.

When the glue dries, add the ribbons of your choice.

After the glue has dried (time will vary depending on how thick you apply it and what brand you use), then you can attach the ribbon of your choosing. I like to put the tied bow right in the front as part of the decoration.

Finished Ornaments with the Red Glitter Edging

Here they are! Don’t they look adorable?! Each ornament is a unique work of art, with it’s own special message on the back. These were written long ago and sent at Christmas time to loved ones. As I give these as gifts, I like to imagine a wonderful cousin or sister-in-law writing their note near candle light, never guessing that I’d be passing their Christmas message on one more time, today. Just think how far off 2012 must have seemed to them, over 100 years ago!
Oh! Isn’t it just marvelous to make old things into new treasures!?
Merry Christmas!

 

Courage

December 13, 2012

What is courage?
For over a month, we’ve been teaching our boys that courage isn’t the absence of fear. It is being scared and facing what you fear, anyway.

With three sidelined practices behind us, and another looming, we didn’t know if he’d be able to get through it. He’d gotten so scared being out there on the court with the coach yelling and a gym full of loud kids, dribbling, chasing balls and doing what seemed impossible for him:  Staying out there.
We simply asked him to make it through a night of practice and just TRY. He didn’t have to be good, keep the ball in control, make any baskets. He just had to stay out on the court. On the first night of practice, the coach didn’t teach them how to hold a ball. How to dribble. How to throw.  The coach simply told them to dribble 2 balls at once. To dribble, jumpstop, pivot, pass, all in quick succession to complete strangers. To make a layup -first thing- on the first night of shooting baskets.  For my little one, these feats seemed impossible. And, I couldn’t help feeling a bit frustrated with what was expected of him, myself. So, for three practices in a row that stretched over a month and a half, he started on the court and ended up sitting on the bench in defeat, watching his brother participate. And fearing the next practice when it would happen all over again.
This week, he left home and arrived to the practice parking lot already in a crying frustration.
Just to help him have the courage to get inside the building, his daddy told him something that must have stuck deep inside. And, I believe, God did miracles in that little heart. His dad told him, “There’s a long line of men in our family who have courage locked up, inside. When you use a little bit, it grows and becomes more.”  And, they went into the school with the understanding that our boy just had to sit on the bench and watch his brother.

I admit, after those three failed attempts, I was questioning if we should just let him stay home. I didn’t want to get through this whole basketball season, which would span 4 months, and have him live with the memories of sitting on the bench, each and every time, after an upsetting retreat from the court. But, I prayed! Oh, how I prayed! I really wanted him to feel proud of himself for facing his fear. I even prayed that if God could raise people from the dead, surely he could help my boy get through basketball practice. This mama was feeling desperate! Have you ever been there?

So, back to the gym. He must have felt some relief knowing he only had to get inside and sit on the bench with Dad. After a bit of just sitting, Dad asked him to play ball on the sidelines for a few minutes, and he lightheartedly agreed. And after a little while, Daddy asked if he might still want to give it a try on the court, adding that our bargain to go for ice cream if he could make it through the night would still be honored. To my husband’s surprise, our boy decided to go out on the court with all the other boys. My husband prayed like never before, and our boy stayed on the court. Then, my husband’s heart sank our son came to the side…. and asked to use the restroom. Would that be it for the night? NO! Upon returning to the gym, he returned to the floor with the other boys! The entire hour went by, and he continued with the practice! He stayed out there! He tried! He acted courageous! And, he was even caught smiling and laughing and having a good time.

Basketball Victory Cup

I cheerfully went out to meet my family for ice cream to celebrate this awesome victory! When I asked my boy about practice, he told me “It was easy!” When I asked if he wants to go back, next time, he said, “I will. But, when this is all done, I never want to do it again!” We agreed that was ok. We were just so happy he faced his fear and he was proud of himself for doing it.
And, when he drove home with me in my car, he told me, “Daddy told me that courage was locked up inside of me, and tonight I unlocked it.”
Yes, you did, my sweet boy. Yes, you did.

Altered Story Handmade Goods available at BookFinders!

December 12, 2012

I’m excited to announce that Altered Story Handmade Goods has teamed up with another local business! BookFinders in Stevens Point, WI now offers repurposed hardcover books that have been altered into one-of-a-kind notebooks! Valuing the work of local artists and authors, BookFinders offers a wonderful selection of locally created goods, along with book accessories, candles, gifts, calendars and (of course) BOOKS! And, just like every other Altered Story purchase, 10% of profits from each sale benefits anti-trafficking organizations! So, sales help local business AND they change the world!

Altered Story notebook display at Bookfinders

Each of the notebooks are made of  incredibly unique hard cover books of all different kinds! Writers, both beginning and professional, will enjoy the lined papers found in some. Artists will appreciate the plain sketch papers found in others. Boys and girl of all ages will truly appreciate at least one of the vintage-book-turned-modern-canvas… for thoughts, dreams and ideas! Each book has divider pages, inside:  actual pages from the up-cycled book or unique retro papers, antique magazine pages or old fashioned wallpapers. No two books are alike!

Can you find the Altered Story notebooks?

What a perfect gift! Especially for creative souls who could benefit by having a journal just as lovely as the ideas put down on paper. Each book is bound with a professional grade tool that creates perfectly round and even holes through each and every paper. The wire bindings allow for wide-open page displays, making for wonderfully easy writing! What about using them for: a unique registry of that new baby’s hospital guests? that artistic/literary couple’s wedding guestbook? a child’s first journal? or even a scrapbook you’d like to remain open on your coffee table?

There they are! Right in front!

Whether it’s words or pictures that simply must be recorded, there is sure to be one Altered Story notebook that would be perfect for you or that special someone you have in mind. Make sure to get to BookFinders to check out the wonderful new selection of handmade treasures! And, remember, you can always check out Etsy for other unique Altered Story treasures!

 

 

 

“CHANGE the World”

December 11, 2012

Changing the world by collecting change? Yup!
It all started with a group of wonderful women who had been praying for orphan children in Myanmar (old Burma). Our pastor and some people from our congregation had visited an orphanage there and discovered that, due to great poverty, the children survive on only three rice balls a day. There is a cesspool much too near the orphanage. So land is needed along with updates to the facilities. When these ladies were asking God how they could help, God gave them the idea to collect change. It was that simple. But, after that handful of praying ladies had raised hundreds of dollars among themselves, they asked if the pastor could share the vision with the entire congregation. He agreed that it made good sense. (Yes, I was tempted to type in “cents”, there. Are you glad I didn’t?) So, the challenge for our entire church to collect change and help the orphanage in Myanmar was presented.

Changing the world by collecting change

Our family mission is “Live in Christ. Change the World.” So, we wrote down our purpose (Change the World) on our collection can and got started. That was one month ago. Our kids had a blast emptying every nook and cranny of our house and cling-clanging the change into the tin. Whenever I found change, one of the kids would happily run the change to the tin to help “Change the World”. It’s been such a great experience for all of us.
We exchanged the coins at the bank, today! Now have twenty three dollar bills plus some coins. In just one month! I encouraged our boys to pray about what God would have them add (from their allowances) and my husband and I will do the same. I think a whole church of families taking this challenge will truly be able to make a difference.
Going forward, we will continue to put change in our “CHANGE the World” tin and donate the funds toward another cause close to our hearts. We will donate our change to fight the terrible reality of human trafficking.
Most of us have change lying around, don’t we? In our purses. At our nightstands. In our cars. Anywhere we empty our pockets. Think for a moment: What cause do you care most about? Why not start a “Change the World” tin, glass or bucket of your own?
What an easy and awesome idea! And, all because of some praying ladies.
I have to say it. Prayer does CHANGE things! (hehehehe)

Spencer Lake’s Taste of Christmas 2012

December 10, 2012

This past Saturday, December 8, 2012, some friends and I traveled to nearby Waupaca, WI. We wanted to check out a holiday arts and crafts show at Waupaca’s Taste of Christmas at Spencer Lake.
The event had a number of local artists and vendors. From garden decorations to Christmas goodies to jewelry and fabric arts, the show had a nice variety of items.
I had the privilege of meeting Kaycie from K. Rose Design. She makes the cutest little vintage paper earrings. I snatched up a pair that will be perfect for a Christmas party I will soon be attending! Make sure to check them out at her shop on Etsy.

Kaycie sitting by her lovely display of vintage paper earrings.

One of the best parts about the show was meeting Ashley Gordon. She is an encaustic artist with such a sweet personality. Isn’t she such a cutie?

Ashley Gordon is a talented encaustic artist.

I discovered this art form, also known as hot wax painting, earlier this year. But, she’s the first local artist that I’ve discovered who does encaustic. It involves using heated wax in which pigments are added. It’s truly a beautiful form of art, and I’m hoping to meet up with her again, maybe at one of her workshops, to learn more about it! I’d love to use this technique in mixed media creations. Oh! The possibilities!

Encaustic Paints are actually melted wax with colorful pigments.

What was especially neat about the event was that it wasn’t just an arts & crafts show. The day offered something for the entire family. From Christmas movies to a bakery filled with desserts. From meeting Santa to eating Jamaican, Mexican, Chinese and all kinds of yummy foods! We especially enjoyed the FREE rummage sale (I found a few vintage plastic flowers to use in future creations and some T-shirts to try out a crafty idea I found on Pinterest.) Madrigal singers that looked like they belonged in “A Christmas Carol” walked all around the grounds and sang songs of Christmas delight. But, one of our favorite things was the living nativity scene and petting zoo.  We got to pet those lovely barnyard animals!

Here’s the petting zoo at the backside of the living nativity scene.

Did they have turkeys in Bethlehem? :)

All in all, it was worth the small trip to this neat event! With a lake view like this to enjoy among all the other wonderful aspects of the day, we were all happy we attended this year’s Taste of Christmas!

Jesus Calling by Sarah Young

December 6, 2012


I’m not the first girl to rave about “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young. But, I’ll take my turn.
I heard references to this book, repeatedly, for over a year before actually purchasing a copy. It seemed it was coming up everywhere. Numerous women I admire referred to it… wherever I went, it seemed! Once, I heard Sarah Young on the radio and her message deeply touched my heart. So much so that I actually pulled it up online and printed out the excerpt that she had read on the radio.  For months, I kept it with me for daily encouragement. I still have it in my Bible.
It’s been since April of this year that I’ve been reading the devotional, each day. Since the Spring, I’ve purchased copies for numerous dear friends and family, hoping they will find the same encouragement, inspiration and daily drawing to Christ that I’ve experienced because of reading it. It’s become a common bond: “Oh! Did you read Jesus Calling, today?!”
I feel as though I am seeing a side of Christ that I hadn’t allowed myself to draw close to, before. Now, I read about the realities of His holiness, but it is through the amazing lens of GRACE and LOVE that leads to a joy-packed, adventure-filled life! Each day reads as if Jesus, Himself, sent me a love letter.  I am able to see the heart of God in a wonderfully open way.  I know. I know. This isn’t scripture and we can’t take every word literally. I’ve read the critics’ posts. But, I do believe that God has breathed all over these daily messages!
Another special thing about this book.  When I read the scriptures referenced, I see shiny new facets of God’s connected meaning strung all together, throughout the Bible. (*Flawed human alert here! Don’t read this next sentence unless you are willing to believe that this pastor’s wife is not so perfect that I get great glee and deep meaning out of EVERY reading of God’s word.)  In the past, I’ve found myself skipping over scripture references in some devotionals or Bible studies… i.e. not doing the extra digging.  It’s because they reference scriptures that say the exact same thing I just read in the exact same way or they seem to be “pulling at straws” in scripture to make a point. These references seem like time wasters and quickly lose my attention and therefore my ambition to page through books and chapters to find them. Not so with Jesus Calling!  I’ve found the scriptures listed are actually fun and exciting to read because they don’t just support the day’s reading, they build upon it. I admit, they also lead me to areas of scripture that I’ve personally highlighted in my Bible, before.  And, God has used those just as much to encourage me in this faith journey. In most instances, it seems like God is showing me one thing and then leaping to another that brings the first truth to an even deeper understanding. It’s totally worth looking them up!
For instance, today I read, “Stay ever so close to Me… What I search for in My children is an awakened soul that thrills to the Joy of My Presence! I created mankind to glorify Me and enjoy Me forever. I provide the Joy; your part is to glorify Me by living close to Me.” Oh, the beautiful, welcoming heart of God! Then, I got lost in Colossians, finding reminders on how to live a life worth living that can only take place out of a heart filled with Jesus! Wow! It seems most days I read exactly what I need to soak up and apply.
Thank you, Sarah Young, for writing this book that has affected so many lives in my own little world! I can only imagine how God has used it in personal and private ways that you will only find out about in heaven!
What about you, dear one? Have you read Jesus Calling? What did you glean from it?

Vintage Toy Trucks

December 1, 2012

I just LOVE vintage toy trucks!  I’m hoping to put one in my garden, come Spring!
Here are a few beauties I was able to photograph at Junk Bonanza, this fall. I was so inspired by all the vintage goodies, creative booth displays, and crafty ideas I discovered during the amazing bi-annual event. These toy trucks were just one shining example of the unique treasures to be found! Enjoy these shots!

Wouldn’t each truck be just perfect with a very green plant in the back? Or as a letter-keeper? What about with some rusty vintage toy characters riding around inside? Or modern-day softies!? So many possibilities! I just love these trucks and the possibilities they provide! Don’t you?
Maybe you could get to the next Junk Bonanza event in Canterbury Park on April 18, 19 and 20th in 2013? There’s sure to be lots of good junk!
Have you been to a junk event? What items did you like best?

 

Vintage Storybook Star Wreath Tutorial

November 30, 2012

Here’s just a glimpse of the awesome star wreath project, below!

Inspired by a star wreath I found on Pinterest months ago, I decided to use vintage pages from two nursery rhyme books to put my special touch on this lovely project. Here’s my tutorial, just for you, in case you are interested in creating your own vintage storybook star wreath! Of course, you could always just go to Altered Story Handmade Goods and snatch one of these up… that’s a little easier!
Make sure you start with all your supplies, and cover your working area with newspaper or anything else you don’t mind getting all glued up!

  • Vintage Storybook Pages – images/text cut out
  • Cardboard piece – any size  (will determine the size of your wreath)
  • Cardstock – complementary color to your images/text
  • Star Templates – either printed onto cardstock from the internet or hand stenciled directly on your card stock
  • Mod Podge (lots!)
  • Paint brush or foam brush (for the Mod Podge)
  • Scissors
  • Hot Glue
  • Ribbon – for wrapping around circle and/or for hanging
  • Scoring tool (an awl or a bone folder will do just fine)
  • Martha Stewart Scoreboard or soft cardboard for scoring
  • A sink nearby! This project gets messy!

Step 1 – Print out star images (found on the internet) onto cardstock of your choice. This will be the base color for your stars. The paper color can be seen from the backside of your finished wreath, so make sure to pick a color that suits the project!

Step 2 – Mod Podge your images onto the cardstock, ensuring that you adhere your image to the exact opposite side of the paper from your star image (basically: do not glue images directly onto your star image or you will not know where to cut!)

Step 3 – After the Mod Podge dries, cut out star images. Using the Martha Stewart Scoreboard (or a soft piece of cardboard), score your stars from each point to the opposite side. Make sure that your image is facing down when you do this, so your stars “pop” outward, not inward.

Step 4 – When each star is scored properly, you will be able to push into the middle of the star, making it 3 dimensional. If the center juts out from the points, you’re on the right track!

Step 5 – Fold each line with your fingers to achieve the desired depth of your finished star. (You will have certain control over the “oomph” you give your star, based on this step and how you hold it as you hot glue it to the base.)

Step 6 – When you’ve achieved your desired star “zing-zang”  (height, depth, pop… whatever you choose to call it!), then you can slather it with more Mod Podge. I wanted mine to have a really lacquered look. I used matte Mod Podge, but you could use glossy or even glittery or metallic… there are lots of options! This will help to secure the shape of your stars and make them more durable.

Step 7 – Now for the Base! I just used good ‘ole cardboard! Decide what size you want your base to be and find something around the house that you can use as a circle template (or square or whatever shape you decide is best!) I found a big bowl and a cookie jar cover. Cut this out. You’ll probably want your stars to protrude outside the edges of the wreath. 

Step 8 – Now you’ll want to do something sassy with your circle base… so nobody even knows it was just a piece of cardboard! I used more Mod Podge to decoupage hand-cut strips of the text from the nursery rhymes onto this wreath. Just slather, adhere your paper and slather some more!

Here’s a finished product! Getting to this point was just a few more steps. Step 9 – Decide how you will hang your wreath. I used some durable metalic cording and tied it around the top and then hot glued it to the front of the wreath to keep it secured. Step 10 – I picked out the cutest polka dotted ribbon I could find and hot glued it to my wreath across the front (with a little “give”). Then, I glued on the previously Mod Podged Mother Goose text from the book across the front like a banner. Step 11 – I experimented a bit in deciding which star I wanted to place at which spot, and then attached each star with hot glue just along the edges that touched the base. This is a bit tricky to ensure that the backside still looks tidy. So, I suggest you either make little pencil marks where you want to glue, or do your best at eyeing it up!

Here’s the front side of my yellow-ribbon wreath. I like the colors! I feel like dancing with the dishes! This one is now available at a local gift shop in my area.

On this wreath, I wrapped ribbon around the circle a million times (well it seemed like it!) to cover the base. I hot glued it each time around. I admit, I had a little more control with the paper decoupaged wreath base. And with the ribbon one, I didn’t like that I could tell where it was hot glued through the ribbon. But, both are very cute!

Here they are together! Which one do you like best?

I must admit, this was a satisfying project. There were a lot of steps, but the end results were so unique and beautiful! However, I would only suggest spending most of  your day to make this for a loved one or to liven up your own space. It’s definitely not a project that I could justifiably continue to make for the sole purpose of selling through my handmade goods business. Although it will not end up a financially profitable project, considering all that went into it, I know that whoever takes these home will surely feel blessed!
Do you have a little baby in mind who would love to grow up with these keepsake treasures?
Each vintage storybook wreath is surely one of a kind! If fact, I give each one 5 stars!

 

A MacBook Air with an Orange Cover

November 30, 2012

Here’s the picture I would post if only I had a MacBook Air

I’m dreaming of a MacBook Air. I dream that I bring my little laptop with me wherever I go. In my dreams, I pull it out of it’s cute case and type out all my thoughts and ideas that will make a fine novel, someday. It has an orange cover, because orange is happy and it inspires me. It is the first computer that I’ve ever owned that wasn’t a hand-me-down. It is personalized to fit my needs. It has apps (a long-standing item on my wish list!). I strongly believe in apps. I don’t get to use them, much, yet. But, someday I will. Someday I will use my twitter account and tweet to my 48 followers who have never once received a tweet from me or a hashtag or anything, yet they are still following me. (How sweet are they?!) Someday I will have apps that help me do my crafts more creatively and write my sentences more acceptably and shop at the grocery store more healthily and go places more efficiently and learn about so many things that I’m just sure I could only know about if I had apps. And, my friend Mindy would rejoice with me because she knows about this longstanding desire. When I go to bed at night and I think of those most important thoughts that have filtered down to the end of my day and I wish I could reach over to my orange covered MacBook Air and type them in, I can’t help but believe that someday my wish will come true. I’ve been praying for God to spoil me with a MacBook Air. I’ve had 2 amazing friends offer me their used non-Mac laptops, which I truly appreciate. I’m embarrassed to admit I feel very snooty about not using them because I really, super-bad am praying that my Father will bless me with what I can truly use-a MacBook Air. You see, my entire photo library and all my previous notes and documents and newsletters and flyers and everything I use for ministry and Altered Story and my blog and anything techy is Mac-related. My smart husband doesn’t think I should attempt to make a short-term change to one of those computers and then try to make it all transfer back perfectly on that special, golden day when I do get my very own MacBook Air. And, I agree with him because in my dreams I am united with my hubby in all his apple-loving bliss. We can email each other documents that don’t need to be exported. That’s how marriage should be. And, there’s the apps to consider. So, I continue to dream. Because using his MacBook Pro late at night, like this, when I’m tired from my computer-less day of writing with pen and paper and jotting down ideas that I just might definitely make something amazing out of, if only I had a MacBook Air available to me during the sane hours of my day, makes me wonder if I’m looking a bit silly to the world in this blog post.