A Harvest of Beauty

 

fabric

A friend of mine is moving and part of the process is deciding what is going and what is going if you know what I mean. Denice decided that her stash of fabric had to go, and I became the lucky recipient. Score!

When Denice bought the fabric, she fully intended to use it for her own projects. She could see their potential for creating beauty. Little did she know at the time, they would eventually fall into my hands and I would pass some along to others. By sharing the fabric, beauty was going to show up in some unexpected ways.

Just one way the fabric was used was for teaching a another class in beginning quilt making. (See the other post on the first workshop here.) It brought a group together who knew each other from work, this time for some fun. They chatted and laughed, told stories about their lives, and encouraged each other. They built deeper, stronger relationships, and their quilt tops turned out awesome too.

And that’s not all. Each participant in the class donated some money towards a mission project that would benefit a family in Mexico by providing them a home. What will be created there is still to come, and from my experience, I can tell you it will be exceptional.

You can imagine the fabric Denice bought to make something beautiful certainly did its job and will continue to do so in the future. But as special as the gift was, it is the generosity that has revealed something even more wonderful.

 

Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through this, your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

2 Corinthians 9:10-11 NIV

I love this Scripture that is found in Second Corinthians titled Generosity Encouraged. Saint Paul, the writer, uses a planting theme to get his point across. He starts with, “Remember, whoever sows sparingly, will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” [2 Corinthians 9:4] Makes sense. Less seed planted results in a lower crop yield. More seed, bigger harvest.

Denice could have simply decided to keep her fabric tucked away in boxes and stored them at her new home. It was totally up to her, but instead, she chose to be generous, and her gifts touched others who in turn touched others. This is very much how seeds work. Each seed planted produces many more seeds that will produce even more. The harvest is multiplied.

Let’s take a quick look at what kind of harvest generosity brings. It’s the whole premise and promise idea—When you do this, you can expect this result. Second Corinthians 9:10 says, generosity will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. Righteousness is the state of what we ought to be, the way God pictures us. According to this Scripture, the more generous we are, the more we are who God meant us to be.

So, generosity satisfies a need for the recipient and builds righteousness in the giver, but it doesn’t stop there. According to Scripture from Second Corinthians, our generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. In fact, the verse that follows says,

“This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.”

What’s more— “Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity with them and with everyone else.”

Simply said, generosity is a sign you are indeed a follower of Jesus. “Loving your neighbor as yourself” [Matthew 22:39] makes the Gospel real to others and brings praise to God.

I guess some questions we might consider are:
  • Do we want to be more like how we ought to be? How God created us?
  • Do we want others to know when we say we are Christians it’s more than just words?
  • Do we want the world to be changed for the better because it sees the Gospel in action?
  • Do we want our lives to glorify God?

Generosity will answer all these questions with a resounding YES! But lest you worry if you have what it takes to be generous remember—

“Now He [God] who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed . . . You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion.”

You’ve got this. Just as it was for my friend, Denice, and the fabric she had stored away for the day she would be called upon to be generous, God has enriched you with what you will need to be giving on every occasion whether it be resources, words, time, prayer, etc. Believe what He says and see what beauty you will create with all He has already given you.

As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.
Proverbs 27:19
*

Be generous.


Denice Kucera (2)
Denice is a true Girl on Adventure.

She would probably tell you she is no one special but her friends would certainly argue with that. Whenever there is a need, Denice is willing to lend a hand. She is a good friend, gives great advice, inspires others to have fun, and loves God’s word. She strives to follow Jesus every day because she knows He goes to the best places and  she would be the first to invite you along on the journey.


 

Here is a sampling of the beautiful creations from the workshop with my daughter’s co-workers. We had such a great day. Life needs more of this. Don’t you agree?

 

 


 

A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.

Proverbs 11:25

Thanks to Denice and others who were generous a house like this one will be built in the spring 2019 for another family in Mexico. To know more about Hands of Mercy’s ministry checkout their website here.

 

Loft house

The Upcycled Life

I have spent the better part of a week painting objects found at the thrift store, alongside the road, and tucked inside of barns and storage sheds. No longer wanted or needed by their owners, these things have been cast-off and forgotten. But Susan, a volunteer at Liebenzell USA, saw their potential. She has taken the old furniture, picture frames, and lamps and breathed new life into them then using them to create inviting spaces for visitors to the Guest House. She is very good at it. Lucky me. Not only have I experienced the spaces she has decorated in my own apartment, but I feel like I have been on a DIY/Fixer Upper retreat over these past ten days. Mission work is rarely boring and this time has been no exception. It has been so fun to work alongside Susan creating something beautiful.

As usual, God does not just allow my hands and feet the joy of service. He also whispers a lesson to my heart as well. As of late, I have been reading in Ephesians and chapter 2 starts like this:

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins. Ephesians 2:1

How? There is a whole list of reasons that follow in verses 2 and 3. (Read here for yourself.)

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even though we were dead in our transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. Ephesians 2:4-5

Sounds a little like those cast-offs Susan has found. Junk really, ready for the trash heap, but she stopped to look and considered the beauty they could bring. God does the same. He finds us where we are, messed up from worldly living and feeling good for nothing, but because of His great love for us, he gave us new life.

I can attest to this myself. Those who knew me before the upcycle will tell you the same. God’s great mercy has transformed me. It’s His personal touch that has made all the difference in my life. He took me from dead in my worldly lifestyle to alive in Christ and how amazing that change has been. No longer do I feel worn out, used up, and hopeless. I live with joy and confidence knowing I am valued by God. This is what He does for us.

But there is more. We not only have a new life, we have been raised up with Christ so that others can see the beauty of the incomparable riches of God’s grace, expressed in His kindness to us. (Ephesians 2:6-7)

One thing to remember when considering this passage of Scripture: We did not have the ability to upcycle ourselves. It was God. He saw the potential and He did the work. It wasn’t we who made the change. Even our faith to trust His work is a gift to us.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not of yourselves, it is a gift of God—not of works that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

As it should be, God should get the glory. That is what our lives should be about anyway, making God known to those around us. We have the potential to make this life following God appealing and beautiful. Let Him make it so. He has the best plans when it comes to upcycling. He makes us something entirely new.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:10


 

Our time serving at Liebenzell USA has been wonderful. We have met so many great people and helped in a small part to create a place of sanctuary for visiting mission workers, churches, and other various groups. This a beautiful place to retreat and we are thankful for our time here.

A few pics of the Guest Houses.


Our apartment.

kitchen at Liebenzell

 

 

 


 

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. ” Jeremiah 29:11

Sabbath Sweet Sabbath

Sabbath is about taking a break, doing something different, and recharging. My husband and I often like to take a Sunday drive (Does anyone even do that anymore?) and seek out something new to explore. Today was no exception. After church, we along with our granddaughter wandered about the countryside near where we are staying in New Jersey. At the recommendation of friends, we stopped at Hacklebarney Farms Cider Mill in Chester for pulled pork sandwiches and their famous cider donuts. Sorry no donut pics, but here’s a couple of others.

Next we took a short hike at Hacklebarney State Park. Beautiful surroundings along a creek.

But we weren’t finished. We drove on to Jockey Hollow National Park and visited the soldiers huts orginally erected in 1779 for Washington’s troops during the winter. We saw only a few of what would have been hundreds needed to house the ten thousand soldiers stationed there.

From there, we headed to Morristown to where General Washington hung out for the winter. Quite different situation for the officers. They stayed with local residents. This is the Ford Mansion where Washington stayed. It is now part of Morristown National Park.

One more stop before heading home. Our kids insisted we stop by Carlo’s Bakery. Yes, more sweet treats, but it’s Sunday. Calories don’t count. Haha!

I hope your Sabbath brought you some relaxation and rejuvenation and perhaps some sweet treats.

Not That Way!

yes no

After last week’s article Follow Me to The Place I Will Show You, I thought I would tell you of a time I didn’t do what God asked. I hope it will speak to you if you are struggling to say yes.


No, that doesn’t make sense. I can’t be hearing you right.

I stood in the cold near a homeless girl who sat under her makeshift shelter, arguing with God.

Take your coat off and give it to her.

I hesitated. I ran through all the reasons, justifying my reluctance and His faulty thinking in the situation. I walked away, coat still on my back.

If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. James 4:17

Tears started to flow but I kept walking, her face etched in my mind. But this story is not about the young woman or her poverty, but me and my choices. That night, I rejected God’s words and chose mine instead. I didn’t trust Him or His wisdom in the situation. I chose not to do the good I ought to do. I chose to sin.

What comes to mind when you think of sin?
Transgression, ungodliness, evil?

Sin means any reprehensible or regrettable action, behavior, or lapse; especially a willful or deliberate violation of some religious or moral principle. This definition doesn’t sound so devilish, but he is in the details. He is all about tempting us into sin knowing full well it is what separates from God. It is his mission in our lives.

When I look at all the actions that come with the definition of sin, lapse is the one at times that is the hardest to come to grips with. Jesus says, “If you love me, you obey my commandments.” (John14:15) We get the thou shall nots, the things to avoid when we are living our lives according to God’s ways. But it is those thou shall dos that sometimes trip us up.

The original translation of the word sin—hamartia— means loss or forfeiture because not hitting the target. It is the brand of sin that emphasizes its self-empowered nature. Willfulness comes to mind here. Sort of like when I said no to God’s prompting and walked away. I didn’t just miss the target. I aimed for something in the opposite direction. I chose what I wanted above God.

I have often thought of the time I said no. It has shaped how I now respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. I want yes to be on my lips and in my actions even when things don’t make sense. I want God to know that I love Him by doing what He tells me to do.

Being a grandparent has some pretty great perks. One comes from my four-year-old granddaughter, Brielle. All through the day, she runs to where I am, wraps her arms around me, and says, “Grandma, I love you.” Then off she goes again to continue playing. It melts my heart. I can’t help but think God is the same way. I picture our yeses to acts of kindness, service, and compassion—those love your neighbor moments—as a great big hug and an I love you to God. His response may sound a bit like this—

‘Well done, good and faithful servant!”

Matthew 25:23 NIV

I love you, too.


Have you ever found yourself reasoning with God on whether you should follow His command? How did that go for you? What did it reveal in your life?

Follow Me to The Place I Will Show You

road-220058_1280
I can do that.

My husband and I both had the same reaction at the same moment in church. A guest speaker was sharing of a need he had, and the Holy Spirit whispered, “He’s talking to you.”

I love when this happens. Holy Spirit talks. We listen. The we listen part is key. So many opportunities are lost because we didn’t act on the words we hear from Him. Hearing and listening are not the same things.

Years ago, we made a move that was very unpopular with our then twelve-year-old. She cried and complained for weeks. One of the times when she was being quite vocal about her discomfort over the whole thing, she asked her dad why we had to move. He simply told her, “Because God said so and we do what He says.”

It was a little bit like the story of the Calling of Abram found in Genesis 12. One day God said, “Leave what you know—your country, your friends, family, and all that feels safe and secure—and go to the place I will show you.” Right there in the midst of God’s challenge to Abram is a gift. Do you see it? Abram was not striking out on his own. God was going to lead the way. He would be with him. And Scripture says, “So Abram went, as the Lord had told him.” Smart man.

I think of how God did just that for us when we relocated and every other time he has called to us to do something outside our comfort zone. He led the way every time, and oh, the adventures we have experienced following Him just from being willing to do what we’re told.

Our daughter listened to her dad that day. His statement has impacted her life since when faced with hard or challenging decisions. It has become a family legacy of sorts, so when God told us to say yes, we did.

The mission we decided to accept doesn’t appear to be hard or challenging or even out of our comfort zone. (At least I don’t think so, but God might have other ideas.) It is actually in our wheelhouse. We will be traveling to New Jersey to help with the remodel of the Liebenzell USA Retreat Center. We have no idea what to expect or what we will be asked to do but our hearts and hands are willing. Many of you know we work with a ministry called Hands of Mercy that constructs small homes for the people of Mexico. The skills we have learned there along with the recent renovation of our own home are sure to be put to use in this new project we’ve been called to. We are excited to see what God is up to in that part of the world, and we will keep you posted.

If you would like to pray for us while we are following where God is leading, please do. We want to make as many people as possible part of what God is doing. For every one person heading out to work, many are needed to support them in prayer. Like the root system of a forest, we intertwine creating a strong foundation that will keep us connected, allowing us to work together in strength. Please sign up to receive new posts in your email.

This portion of Scripture written for the Israelites as they were crossing into the Promised Land speaks to me when thinking of listening to God’s voice. Perhaps it will speak to you as well.

Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach.  It is not up in heaven so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?”  Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?”  No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.

See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees, and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.

Deuteronomy 30:11-16 NIV

Choose Life. Follow God’s Lead into the Land of Promise.

 


As with anything, there will be a certain amount of expenses to going on a mission. If you are reading this and the Holy Spirit is saying to you, “This is for you,” and you would like to help out with providing money for our transportation costs, go here to make a donation. Thank you so much for coming along on the journey with us.

 

Building Hope Together

hand-labor-188742_1920

The sound of women’s laughter sang in harmony with the whirl of their sewing machines. At the end of the day, they would go home with a beautiful quilt top they had created with their own hands. But as wonderful as the new creations were, something much more had taken place. You see, these women pooled their resources to build a small house for a family in Mexico. While they spent time sewing together, they were also building hope in a community far from their own.

There is just something about finding a way to bring people together for a common cause. In our case, my friend, Jan, and I took what we had—expertise and an abundance of fabric stashed away in our closets—and traded it for the money needed for building materials for the house by teaching a class on beginning quilt making. More fabric came from someone who could not join us but wanted to help. And yet another woman came bearing ingredients for a delicious lunch. It was almost like the story of Stone Soup as we brought what we had to stir up something wonderful and satisfying. When they returned home, each woman had a finished quilt top and our little house had $1600 towards making it into a reality.

The next step in the process will be a Prebuild Party where families will come together and partially construct the house. Walls, roof, and floors will be prefabricated in the church parking lot and loaded onto a trailer. All the components will then be transported to a site in Mexico near Ensenada where yet another group of people from both the US and Mexico will build it. By the end of the project, more than a hundred sets of hearts and hands will have been part of creating change.

Jellyroll6

For more information about the loft house project. Please check out Hands of Mercy’s website here. Perhaps it’s your turn to build some hope. You can also read more about my experience with the project in these posts:

For Goodness Sake
Hope Under Construction


Here’s something exciting!

Since writing this post yet another group of friends, this time from the Oklahoma City area, have decided to come together to repeat the fun of raising funds. I am so excited to be part of the world coming together for good.


 

Our project was a super simple quilt top method called Jelly Roll Race. I think our tops turned out great. Here are just a few.

 

 

Command [those who are rich] to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.  In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

1 Timothy 6:18-19

hand-labor-188742_1920

 

Paddling Through Knee-Deep Waters

Elk River

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.

 Isaiah 43:2

We discovered the Elk River in southern Missouri on our last adventure. Beautiful, clear, and lazy, it is a popular place to take a float trip. How could we resist? The morning leading up to our trip was spent reassuring our seven-year-old granddaughter, Hero, that she would be perfectly safe. The water was only knee-deep in most places after all. She wanted to know whose knees—a kid’s or a grown-up’s. (Important to know when it comes to measuring.) We reminded her of the lesson she had learned in children’s church that week about “God does not give us a spirit of fear. . . but of power, love, and self-control. (Talk about a teachable moment.) She thought rivers were something you should have a good fear about. (Smart girl.) We told her if anything should happen and the canoe flipped over, Grandpa would be right there to save her. Not convinced she reluctantly strapped on her orange life vest and got in the boat.

It was a beautiful ride. The water was so clear you could see the bottom. There were fish everywhere. The surroundings were peaceful. There was a learning curve for us being beginning paddlers, but it didn’t take long to get the hang of it. Mostly the stream did the work and we just steered. It was fun, and we felt a bit like Pocahontas as we discovered places just around the river bend.

And then it happened.

That thing that wasn’t likely to go wrong did. Our canoe got caught in a current and pushed us up under a tree that was hanging over the bank. As we got closer to the tree, we all leaned away from it to avoid getting poked and scratched. As we leaned, the boat did too. We started taking on water and over we went. My husband grabbed Hero by the handle on the back of her life jacket and held her head out of the water. Arms and legs flailing and kicking, she was in a blind panic thinking she was surely going to drown. We told her to put her feet down on the bottom of the riverbed and stand up. Eventually, she calmed down enough to do what we asked. You should have seen the look on her face when she realized the water was not over her head as she feared. It barely came up to her thighs. She was wet and mad, but no worse for wear. By the end of the day, Hero was telling us how good it was to fall out of the canoe. It had cooled us off. Lol!

Life can have an uncanny resemblance to our little trip downstream. You start off on an adventure not knowing exactly what it will look like or where you’re going. You might step in the canoe with caution like Hero did. You have your life vest on, yet you’re not sure if it will be enough for all the ‘what ifs’ you’d imagined. After a while, you get the hang of it. The current isn’t so bad after all and you gain a little confidence in your navigation skills. You’ve got this! And then it happens. Something unexpected shows up and flips your life completely upside-down. The next thing you know, your gasping for air and struggling to keep from going under. But in your panic, you hear it.  “I’m right here. Put your feet down and stand up.”

A few years ago, I was floating along through a great life. I was doing good things, having some successes, and enjoying a wonderful season with people I loved. Suddenly, it all came crashing down. Selfishness and Greed rocked the boat, dumped me out, ruining everything. The grief of losing what had been threatened to suck me under. I lost my footing, and since the pain came from something that happened at church involving church people, I wanted to quit. Forever.

God was having none of it.

He held the handle of my life vest, telling me to just put my feet down and stand up. I couldn’t. I didn’t know where to stand. I thrashed about, sinking deeper, but He didn’t let go. He sent in the troops, trusted friends who gently spoke truth into my life. He guided me back to His word and sat with me as I sobbed through its promises. Slowly, my flailing about stopped, and my feet touched solid ground. I realized the water had not been so deep after all, especially if I used God’s knees as a measure.

I’m happy to say that I am enjoying a relatively calm season in life. The lessons I learned from my experience overboard have proven to be valuable and my relationship with God is deeper and stronger. How will I respond next time I get tossed out of the boat? It’s hard to say until I find myself struggling again, but I do hope it won’t take so long to remember God has got His hold on me, put my feet down, and stand up.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

Hebrews 10:23