Finding Your Own Way…

When I was 15, my mom was in a near-fatal car accident. For the first week, the doctors weren’t certain that she’d survive. She did survive, but recovery was long, hard, and never quite complete. The next two years were some of the most grueling for our family, and I suffered through months of depression as a result. I tried to confide in someone about it and was promptly told that if a Christian was depressed it was because they weren’t praying hard enough. The guilt that single comment heaped on me did nothing to help me get better, and discouraged me from seeking the counseling I desperately needed.

The internet is filled with people telling us how to do everything from mopping to moving the “right way.” Christians experts are eager to tell us how to do things the “Christian” way. There’s nothing wrong with seeking advice; but it’s easy, too easy, to get stuck in the idea that there’s just one way to do things. Very few things in life are truly one size fits all.

I don’t think any of us would argue that we each have a different combination of talents, personality, and interests. Why then, is it harder for us to accept that we also have different ways of making decisions and dealing with what life hands us?

Practical Things

I’ve been told that my grandmother kept an immaculate house and vacuumed her carpets daily. Balancing work, my husband’s travel schedule, homeschooling four kids, and general life means that my house is not quite as immaculate as Grandma’s. I have tried many methods that promised to be the best way to do things, and none of them really worked out. I finally settled on a compilation of ideas that fits our family. It’s not the way that everyone else does it, but it doesn’t have to be.

Whether you’re figuring out a solution for Mt. Washmore, or picking out a math curriculum, it’s okay for you to toss all of the “shoulds” nagging you and do what works for you and your family. Start from scratch and consider all of the options. Write out a pros and cons list if that helps you think through things. If what you pick isn’t quite right, tweak things until it is, or try something else. Go with what’s best for your family and let go of the guilt!

Faith-Related Things

I always envied the super-spiritual Christians – people who spent two hours a day in prayer, or read the entire Bible in a month. I knew that a daily quiet time was important, but no matter which reading plan, Bible on tape, devotional book, or study guide I tried, I couldn’t seem to figure out how to do it “right.” A year and a half ago, I stumbled upon a blog post about writing out Scripture passages in a journal each day. I enjoy writing things out by hand, and it helped me to connect with the Scriptures in a way that I’d struggled to do before! I’ve even started writing out some of my prayers.
There’s nothing wrong with any of the other things that I mentioned; it’s just a matter of each of us finding out what helps us to grow in our faith. There are foundations of faith that remain constant. We’re all sinners and can only be saved through Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf. But, my spiritual growth won’t happen on the same timetable, or even through the same methods, as yours. What’s important is that we cultivate our relationship with God and keep growing!

Hard Things

Life isn’t always easy. As Christians, we have hope that can only be found through our faith in God. As powerful as that is, we can lose sight of it because we’re focused on putting up a good front. We think that Christians shouldn’t feel angry, scared, or depressed. We’re afraid admitting that we do will make people think less of us.

We all have to process and deal with things in our own way. Some need to do this quietly and on their own, some need the support of friends and loved ones who will listen and encourage, and some need the help of a professional. None of these options are any holier than the others. The important thing is to process what has happened and deal with how it’s affecting us. When we stuff all of this down deep instead of facing it, we deprive ourselves of seeing God’s grace in the situation as we work through it. There are things that I don’t think I’ll understand this side of heaven, but I can still see glimpses of God’s hand in my life. That alone is worth the pain of facing the hard things.

“For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose.” Philippians 2:13 (HCSB)

DIY Filing Cabinet Upgrade

Red Green might call duct tape the handyman’s secret weapon, but spray paint is definitely the DIY decorator’s secret weapon! A couple of cans of spray paint can transform just about anything. There’s not much that I haven’t tried spray painting, and I’m usually quite happy with the results.

My latest spray paint project was a 2-drawer filing cabinet. It all started when I came across the cute filing cabinets by Poppin. I love the combination of white and a bright pop of color for the drawers! But… I don’t need a new filing cabinet, and at $250 for the cute Poppin version…

Krylon to the rescue! I used spray primer leftover from a previous project. As you can see from the photo, this isn’t the first time that I’ve spray-painted this particular filing cabinet…

It looks pretty rough at this point, but don’t panic! Spray painting takes a lot of coats. Many light coats works better than trying to use just one or two heavy coats. My boys helped me decide which color to use for the drawer fronts, and I think they picked a good one…

I realized at this point that I should have bought an extra can of white because the coverage would have evened out a little better with another coat or two. (I should know by now that it always takes more paint than I think it will!) Even so, now that it’s inside and next to my desk, any unevenness in the white isn’t horribly noticeable. There is a drip on the bottom that I could have sanded out once dry and fixed. Since you’ll only see it if you’re on the floor looking right at the filing cabinet, I opted to let it go.

So, for the cost of a couple of cans of spray paint, I have a cute filing cabinet that matches our school/office/dining room’s new color scheme!

I used Krylon spray paint for this project, but I’ve use Rustoleum in the past as well with good results. Pick whichever one has the color and finish that you’re looking for. (If you buy the 99 cent cans of paint, keep in mind that you’re getting what you pay for in this case…) Here are a few tips to get you started with your own spray paint transformation!

  • Use several light coats as opposed to a heavy one.
  • Paint outside on a good day, preferably with little to no breeze.
  • If there is rust or a shiny finish, use some steel wool or sandpaper before priming.
  • You can skip the primer, but it’s helpful when covering a dark color with a lighter one, on unfinished wood, or when you have a surface that the paint needs a little extra help “gripping”. When in doubt, prime first.
  • Buy an extra can or two of paint because it always takes more than you expect…
  • Follow the directions for re-coating and then let the finished product sit for at least a day so that the paint really has a chance to harden before setting anything in/on it.

What cool projects have you used spray paint for?

Oh, check out what I found in said filing cabinet:

Cleaning out the file drawer and I realized that I’m a bit of a fangirl… #wellplannedgal

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January Goals Check-in

January didn’t go quite the way I planned it… Actually, that pretty much describes my life!

IMG_4827In any case, I had nice, lofty goals and plans for January. Some things came up that did require me taking a step back, but I also discovered that I didn’t break some of my goals down far enough. For example, I wanted to work on novel re-writes. I did work a little bit on that. However, since it was a monthly goal and not something I had listed to work on daily, it was too easy to keep pushing that back instead of making even a little progress. The same thing happened with my reading goals. This lead me to tweak my February goals by adding in 30 minutes of writing and 30 minutes of reading daily. Naturally, if I get into the writing groove then I’ll write longer than that, but the point is that I need to make working on writing daily a priority. NaNoWriMo showed me how powerful working every day on something can be!

I was most consistent with Write the Word in January. Write the Word are the guided journals that I use for my daily Scripture writing. I’ve found that copying scripture into a journal is the most effective way for me to slow down and ponder it. I stumbled across the idea last year and it’s been so helpful!

IMG_4828I wanted to establish “Morning Time” with my kids this year as well. That’s something else that needs so tweaking. Mornings just get busy for us. The kids are all jumping into their studies, I’m getting some work in, and on the list goes. Afternoon teatime work out better for our family. So, I’m working to get that into our routine. We’ve been memorizing the Westminster Shorter Catechism and using a great devotional book, Training Hearts, Teaching Minds, to go along with it. Each week covers one question, so it’s going to take us a couple of years to work through the whole book, but that’s OK. We also read a poem from Favorite Poems Old and New. I’ll add in a few more things as we get into more of a routine with this.

I really like the Powersheets workbook because instead of just setting yearly goals and stopping there, I set specific goals and action steps for each month. Then, at the end of the month, I can re-evaluate and change things as necessary. I work better with things broken down into more detailed plans than just a single big goal. Also, purposely re-evaluating each month makes me feel free to change my approach or even tweak my goals without guilt. Previously, I equated changing my goals/plans with failure. This tool is just one of the things that’s helped me to see that making adjustments is still positive progress.

So, what about you? How are your goals for the year shaping up?

Parenting Lessons from Mom: The Tween Years

When my daughter entered the tween years, I panicked a bit. I’d just barely started to feel more confident in my parenting and now we were entering uncharted waters. While praying for guidance, it struck me that I had a great example to follow in my own mother. So, I spent some time identifying some of the key things that she did to maintain our relationship though my angst-filled tween years.

Coffee with Mom

Every morning found Mom at the kitchen table with her coffee and her Bible. She kept the coffee that I preferred on hand, and invited me to join her at the kitchen table after waking up in the morning. Sometimes we had deep, serious conversations, and sometimes we just chatted over the latest copy of a recipe magazine. If she had come across a particular scripture in her morning devotions, then she’d show it to me, but she resisted the temptation to turn our morning coffee time into just another series of sermons. Life has gotten busy for me, but this is something that I want to practice more with my own daughter.

Talk, but Listen Too

As much as I’m described as a quiet person, I can go on and on about a topic of interest to me. It is so much harder for me to listen to someone talk about something that I find incredibly boring. I’m positive that there were plenty of times when my topic of choice was the last thing in the world that Mom was interested in, but she bit her tongue and listened. She didn’t tell me that my ideas were stupid, or act disinterested. I have to actively work at this, but it is so important for me to listen to my kids and not monopolize our conversation time. Even if it means biting my own tongue now and again!

Along for the Ride

Moms run lots of errands, and mine was no exception. Just about every time she got in the car though, she took at least one of us with her. I know that it sounds ridiculously simple, but it was a great way for us to spend time together. Car rides seem to be made for conversation, and we had a lot of good ones over the years. At times, we turned on the radio instead. Neither of us could sing on key, but we still had fun singing together! As nice as a quiet car ride sounds, it’s worth exchanging the quiet for some quality time.

Offer Hugs, but Don’t Push

I went through a phase where I would barely tolerate Mom’s hugs. I certainly was not about to hug her back! Now I realize how much that must have hurt her, but she never let on or made me feel guilty. She still hugged me, still told me that she loved me, but never forced the issue when I didn’t reciprocate. I don’t know if this is something I’ll encounter with one or all of my kids. If I do, I’ll take my cue from Mom and patiently let them know that they are loved, while waiting for them to respond in their own time.

Pray Without Ceasing

Ultimately, we don’t have as much control over how our kids’ lives turn out as we’d like to think we do. After we’ve done everything that we can, we can keep praying! I know that Mom prayed for me daily, and I had no idea as a young person how much I’d come to appreciate that later.

I know that I didn’t always make it easy for Mom, but I’m so grateful that she put so much time and effort into our relationship. Now, it’s up to me to do the same with my kids.

Thoughts for Tuesday… but on Wednesday, March 9th

Outside my windows… spring is trying to arrive, but it’s not sure if it’s staying or not. The only certainty about our weather right now, is that it will change!

Inside my house… I’m waiting anxiously to be able to throw the windows wide open for an entire day and air out all the winter stuffiness and germs. For now, I’ll content myself with cracking a window open for a few minutes.

Counting 1000 gifts… When I look at how I was feeling a year ago, there is such a difference. For that, I am deeply thankful.

Prayers of the heart… praying for the people I care about who are sick or facing surgery this week. Trying hard to pray and not worry!

What the (not quite so) little ones are up to… some are outside playing, others stop by my desk for a hug.

From my playlist… “Testimony” from the Amazing Grace Broadway Musical. They just released a cast recording and I have fallen in love with this music!

From my reading list… reading… I should be reading something. Life has kept me so busy that I haven’t read much. This is very unusual for me! Time to figure out how to fit this back into my regular days…

From my needlework basket… my socks are languishing too. I should be knitting socks…

In the learning room… we are chugging away at this year’s studying, and I’m rounding up book for this fall already. The kiddos now ask when books arrive whether they are for next year, or if they can read them now. I’ve been letting them have a preview so long as they put them back in the tub of books when they are done!

Random ramblings… There’s such a jumble of things rattling around my brain today that I’m not sure what to ramble about! This year will be a roller coaster, I know that much! So many things to think about and decisions to make… For now? More tea!

Profound ponderings… “Things that matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least.” – Goethe

Caught on film… Pretty sure that’s some kind of LEGO piece that he’s got on his thumb. I didn’t ask why…

A Place to Write

Back in the days of the wild, wild internet, I had a website. If I remember correctly, it had a bright purple background. I posted some of my bad poetry there. I honestly don’t know if anyone but me ever saw the website, but teenage Teish thought that it was very cutting-edge to have one.

Fast forward a few years past a wedding and the births of my three oldest kids, and I decided to start my own blog. At the time, knitting blogs were in their heyday, and I read a lot of them. I had visions of joining their ranks and becoming a knitting blogger. So I picked a free blog service, included “teishknits” in the web address, and named my blog… Tea and Conversation. I rarely wrote about knitting.

A little while later, my IT staff said to me, “You know, we could get you your own domain.” That’s when was born.

IMG_3167[1]Teish Knits has been through a few theme changes over the years, including an unfortunate phase where I crammed way too many things into the sidebar! As much as I loved showcasing some of my IT staff’s gorgeous photography in my blog header, it was time for a change.

I’ve gone for a cleaner, pared down look overall. I had to keep just a little pop of color though! It’s the perfect look for a writer.

That’s what Teish Knits has always been about for me, a place to be a writer.

Honey or Vinegar?

“You’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”

I heard this often from my mom and grandmother. It may be one of those little sayings that it seems everyone’s grandmother knows, but there’s truth in it! You’re more likely to have pleasant interactions with others when you are kind to them.

As Christians, we have another, even more compelling reason to treat others with particular kindness and deference.

“Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” – Phillipians 2:3-4 HCSB

Admittedly, this attitude is counter-cultural, and in direct opposition to our own human tendency towards selfishness. Putting others first is certainly not my natural response, particularly if I feel that someone is being “difficult”. There are times when I show kindness more out of a sense of obligation than because I want to!

Consider this though, you have no idea what is going on behind the scenes in someone’s life. Perhaps the person who is irritable when placing their coffee order has been up most of the night in the emergency room with a loved one. The person who is angry about the mistake on their store receipt may have just lost their job. Maybe they are dealing with a chronic illness, or this is the time of year when someone they were close to passed away. It could be that they are just having a no good, very bad day!

I came across a quote attributed to Rev. John Watson that sums this up nicely.

“Be kind, for every one is fighting a hard battle.”

Remembering that everyone is dealing with something in their own lives can help us to be a little more patient and compassionate with others. We may not be able to do anything about the struggles in someone’s life, but perhaps their day will be just a bit better because someone made it a point to be kind to them.

Putting others first does not have to be merely an obligation though. Believe it or not, you can find joy and satisfaction in it. God may use your behavior to encourage someone who desperately needs it. What could be better than that?

There will, of course, be times when you have to deal with someone who just doesn’t seem to be happy with anything. As you practice being gracious to everyone, you’ll find that this is the exception rather than the rule. Most people will react positively to a gentle manner, even if things get off on the wrong foot!

“A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath.” – Proverbs 15:1 HCSB

The next time that you’re interacting with people, whether it’s at school, work, church, or just out and about, pause for a moment and think of how you can show kindness to them. Even better, begin with your family. You may be surprised to find a change in your social interactions as you do, and you never know who God may bless through your small acts of kindness!

Word for 2016: Story

It’s been hard for me to pick a word for 2016. I even printed off a worksheet to help me try and narrow it down to just one…

2016 is the year to tell more of my story. I don’t know exactly when, how, where, or to whom. I do know that I’ll be watching for God to show me that.

We all have a story, and it’s the stories that stay with us. Some people have big, dramatic stories. I’ve found inspiration and encouragement in many of those! Yet just because some of us have smaller, more ordinary stories, doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t tell them.

My story may be one of the small ones, but God has still worked in big ways in my life.

“Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. He comfort us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” – II Corinthians 1:3-4 HCSB

That’s what happens when we tell our stories. We share a piece of our life, and we let people see how much God has done for us. In telling our own stories, we are reminded anew, and perhaps even realize for the first time, just how much God has done for us. How much He has saved us from. How amazing that His grace really is.

Some chapters of our stories are harder to tell than others. I’ve got a few of those myself. Ironically, those are the ones where God’s grace shines through the brightest. That’s why telling our stories is important.

Have you picked “one word” for 2016? If so, I’d love to hear about it!

Thoughts for Tuesday, December 8th

Outside my windows… patches of snow but mostly bare ground. I’m torn between wanting snow for Christmas, and really not minding the milder winter we’re having so far…

Inside my house… winter gear is starting to take over again. Mittens and hats are a must when venturing outside now.

Counting 1000 gifts… watching the Great Holiday Baking show with Mr. Q. We fell in love with the British Baking Show earlier this fall!

Prayers of the heart… my heart is heavy for all of the people in this area who are without work now. Mill closings and so many other things have contributed to a rapidly shrinking job market. Praying that God will guide all of them as they make big decisions.

What the (not quite so) little ones are up to… epic LEGO scenes spread across the table today!

From my playlist… We Three Kings. This has always been my favorite Christmas carol.

From my reading list… One Enchanted Christmas by Melissa Tagg released today! I pre-ordered the kindle version, so I know what I’ll be reading this evening!

From my needlework basket… slippers, hats, sweaters, mittens, Christmas stockings… my list grew exponentially this weekend…

In the learning room… Christmas break is a wonderful thing! Taking a long one is one of the reasons why I decided to homeschool year round. That’s not to say that learning has stopped though! The kids have been reading about how Christmas is celebrated in other countries. (Geography anyone?)

Random ramblings… In just under two weeks I’m going on a date with my IT staff! It’s going to be the first time in about 8 years when we go to a movie together. We are going to a movie together! Yeah, I’m excited.

Profound ponderings… “Forgiveness doesn’t excuse their behavior. Forgiveness prevents their behavior from destroying your heart.” – Unknown

Caught on film… With enough hot cocoa, I can knit everything…


Tips for Christmas Decorating with the Kids

Before kids, I was one of those people who had color-coordinated Christmas tree decorations. None of this hap-hazard hodgepodge stuff for me! Then came the year that I let the little ones decorate the bottom part of the tree. There were bare spots, branches with 3 or 4 ornaments layered on them, and nothing looked remotely planned or coordinated. Yet, it was endearing. My kids have been helping me decorate for Christmas ever since! We’re going to share some of our favorite tips for decorating as a family:

• Start with the Storage

You probably have at least a few fragile or breakable ornaments that you like to put on the top of the tree. Keep these well-packed in a separate box! Mine are in a little red hatbox, and it comes out of the box of decorations before the kiddos are allowed to dive in to the rest of it! Keeping the breakables separate also makes it easier for Mom or Dad to put them on the top layer of the tree while the little ones are kept busy with the bottom branches.

• Embrace the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree Vibe

If your family picks out a real tree, then let your kids come along and help choose one! They may not pick the prettiest one, but just keep reminding yourself that it will look better with lights and ornaments…

If you have an artificial tree, then let the kids help put it together. Yes, I know, they really have no idea how to properly “shape” the fake branches, and a few of them might be stuck in the wrong spot. The kids will have fun helping though, and again, enough ornaments and lights can cover a world of imperfections!

• Salt Dough, Construction Paper, and Glitter! (Oh My.)

Remember all of those Christmas ornaments that you made at school? Things like gluing your school photo on construction paper and then drowning it in glitter? Grab the construction paper and let the kids make some ornaments! (Though I’d suggest substituting glitter glue for loose glitter.)

Kids and adults can all get in on the fun when you make dough ornaments. Basic salt dough works fine, but I tend to like baking soda dough a little better. (Here’s the recipe that I used:

If you’re looking for something less messy, try making candy canes by stringing beads onto pipe cleaners and bending them into a candy cane shape.

Kids will be thrilled to see the ornaments they made on your family’s tree!

• Invest in an Unbreakable Nativity Scene

I have a lovely Willow Tree nativity scene that was a Christmas gift from my mother years ago. Alas, in the eyes of a young child it does look like a new toy! Let’s just say that I was glad to have some super glue on hand that day…

So, when my kids were little, I would set up the plastic toy nativity set on our coffee table. I didn’t want them to think that Jesus’ birth was just something for grownups. The pieces did end up being scattered about the room, but the kids would help me find them all and we could talk a little bit about the Christmas story. Now that the kids are a bit older, I almost miss seeing the occasional dinosaur visiting the manger!

This year, turn on the Christmas music, make some cocoa, and decorate with the kids. Even if it doesn’t look like a magazine cover, you’ll have so much more fun. Not to mention all of the wonderful memories that the kids will treasure in years to come!