One Little Word 2016

This is the third year I’ve chosen a Word of the Year, or One Little Word (concept by Ali Edwards), and I’ve come to really appreciate this approach to a new year versus choosing some New Year’s resolutions. Resolutions don’t seem to last very long, and with that comes a certain sense of failure. But I think choosing a word that describes the direction or focus you plan to take in the upcoming year takes a little pressure off. It’s not a list of do’s and/or don’ts, but rather just something to continually keep in mind and work towards throughout the year.

The word I have chosen for 2016 is RENEW.

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Before I go on to explain this word, because it’s part of the story, I just want to take you back to 2015 and my word for that year, which was CULTIVATE. You can read about my One Little Word for 2015 here, and for 2014 here.

These types of posts always get a bit lengthy for me. Sorry. you can skip all the words if you want, but I just feel like I need to give a little back story.

I’m just going to be bluntly honest and say that 2015 sucked. In so many ways.

When I chose the word cultivate, I have to admit I had something totally different in mind than God did. My idea of cultivation was less intensive, less invasive, a little more surface, not so deep. A lot nicer. Much more pleasant. I kind of have to chuckle and think that just maybe, when I chose that word, God just sat back, gave a little nod, and said something along the lines of “Well, if cultivation is what you want, my child, then that is what you will get.” And so He did. Cultivated me, that is.

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2015 was so challenging in so may ways. And that is why you haven’t seen me updating my Cultivate album. I kept it up for over half the year, and then it just got too hard. I couldn’t even find the words to write what I was feeling inside. Maybe sometime I will show you the pages I have completed but haven’t shared yet.

Early on in 2015 when I got a hint of the challenges to come, I felt like God was saying that He wanted to go deep. He said something like “Brenda, it’s not enough to just cultivate above ground, to look good. But I want to make sure your roots are strong.” I had no idea what that would look like, but I found out.

The Devil likes to kick us when we’re down, and that’s what he did. He went after us when we were already facing challenges and gave us one sucker punch after another until I wasn’t sure I’d survive. I think every area of our lives was affected, except for our physical health, thankfully. We stayed healthy all year, except for a small ordeal with Lymes with one of our kids. But it was very clear to me that we were under some sort of spiritual attack and engaged in a spiritual battle.

And I began to realize that God had a whole other idea of cultivation than I did. Like barren soil that breaks up under the farmer’s plow, God wrecked me. He poked and prodded. He pulled up weeds and tugged at the stones.

And I I stood and wondered “Is this what the soil feels like after it’s been cultivated? Broken, vulnerable, wondering what in the world just happened.

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But one thing I know is that God doesn’t wreck without a reason. He doesn’t break something unless there’s something better to be had. He always, always has a purpose. God wants us to thrive and grow, but sometimes He needs to get rid of the junk first.

Like the grape is crushed to release its sweet juices. Like a rose petal crushed to release its pleasant fragrance. Like a diamond is formed under pressure. God breaks us open so he can plant a new seed and begin something new, something sweet, something wonderful.

After the storm comes a rainbow. Out of the fire comes pure gold. The heart that goes through times of trial is purified and strengthened for whatever lies ahead. The trials will make us or break us. We will either respond by hardening or hearts and shutting down, or by opening up and allowing God to do what He wants to in us.

And so after a year like 2015, I feel so much like it’s time for something new. My spirit has been so weary this past year from so much struggle. I need RENEWal in so many areas of my life. I need God to come and breathe a fresh breath of newness in my spirit.

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I looked up the word RENEW in the dictionary. It means:

verb (used with object)
1. to begin or take up again, as an acquaintance, a conversation, etc.; resume.
2. to make effective for an additional period
3. to restore or replenish:
4. to make, say, or do again.
5. to revive; reestablish.
6. to recover (youth, strength, etc.).
7. to restore to a former state; make new or as if new again.
verb (used without object)
8. to begin again; recommence.
9. to renew a lease, note, etc.
10. to be restored to a former state; become new or as if new again.

I also looked up some synonyms, and these are some that I really liked:

  1. reaffirm
  2. reestablish
  3. restore
  4. revive
  5. exhilarate
  6. freshen
  7. reawaken
  8. recreate
  9. refresh
  10. rejuvenate
  11. revitalize
  12. transform
  13. begin again
  14. breathe new life into

Yes, Jesus! Yes! That is exactly what my heart longs for! I hope I’ve been adequately cultivated. I hope my heart stands soft and workable enough for Him to use to nurture and grow something useful and beautiful.

All I have to offer is clumps of dirt falling through my fingers. But I lift it up to the Father and ask Him to do something with this. To RENEW me. That the seeds He’s planted this year will spring up a fruitful tree. One with deep roots.

The dirt, after it’s been cultivated, doesn’t show any signs of growth at first. An observer has no idea what kind of seeds the farmer has planted deep within the soil until the shoots begin to emerge. That is where I am right now. Freshly (and hopefully thoroughly) cultivated. Ready for new life and renewal.

I have no idea what will come out of this period of my life. I have no clue what seeds the Father has planted or what He hopes this will yield in me. I’ll have to wait and see. But I know He’s not going to waste it. He’s done work on me this year. I’ve had some glimpses of some good things that have come about because of this year of cultivation. And I expect to see more glimpses along the way. Until one day I can look back and see something flourishing and growing as a direct result of what God has been doing. Some day it will be evident. For now, I wait and draw close to God, waiting in expectation for the RENEWal that I know will come soon.

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I’ll leave you with this verse that speaks right to my heart.

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19

And this quote by Vance Havner:

“God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume. It is Peter, weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever.”

And this one by Daniel Abram:

We say that flowers return every spring, but that is a lie. It is true that the world is renewed. It is also true that that renewal comes at a price, for even if the flower grows from an ancient vine, the flowers of spring are themselves new to the world, untried and untested.

The flower that wilted last year is gone. Petals once fallen are fallen forever. Flowers do not return in the spring, rather they are replaced. It is in this difference between returned and replaced that the price of renewal is paid.

And as it is for spring flowers, so it is for us.”

 

 

 

Gossamer Blue January reveal

Happy New Year!

Welcome, 2016! I am happy to see you! I am hoping for many good things in store this year. There is much to look forward to.

For today, it means there are some new Gossamer Blue kits in the house!! Head on over to the shop to snag yours.

Much Love card (main kit):

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I loved the patterned papers in this month’s main kit so much. They are fresh, new interesting, and different. The ones I used here are from the Goldie 7 Paper line from Studio Calico designed by Ashley Goldberg, and the Crate Paper Hello Love collection. I really love both of these lines.

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I used several different patterned papers and some of the lovely metallic glitter embellishments from Heidi Swapp.

Selfie scrapbook page (main kit):

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Just a disclaimer, I am NOT a selfie taking person! Don’t want to ever be. This is one of maybe two selfies I’ve ever taken that do not include any other person. I kind of feel funny even sharing a photo I’ve taken of myself. Haha!! But I’m glad I have it to record me at this time of my life. So there’s that.

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I used papers and embellishments form the main kit for this page.

More to come. I will not wait until the last day of the month to share the rest this time. I promise. :)

Happy New Year! Thanks for stopping by!

 

final December share

Seeing it’s the last day of December, I guess I’d better get around to sharing my final projects with the December Gossamer Blue kits! Somehow this month just disappeared, and all my good intentions along with it.

If you’ve visited the gallery, you may have seen these projects there, but for those of you who haven’t, here are the last two projects I made using the December kits.

Be You page:

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I adore those large gold letters, so I had to find a way to use them on a page. This photo is one I took of my daughter while out on a mother/daughter date together.

I included some journaling for her, you know, motherly wisdom and encouragement. I find my pages for her (and my boys too) often encourage her to be herself, to stand up for who she is, to not be afraid to do why’s right, and that she is always beautiful, even if the world tells her otherwise. I think our kids need to hear those words.

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Those large letters just begged to be stitched. So I did.

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I love the colors on this page so much. I took inspiration from the dress my daughter is wearing, that sadly no longer fits her, and pulled out some stickers and patterned papers that I felt coordinated well.

Of course, if you’ve been here any length of time, you probably well know my love for the yellows, blues, and greens color families, and that they are best paired with black.

As you can see, I went with that color scheme in this next project as well.

Epic card:

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I love that patterned paper so much! It’s from the Maggie Holmes Shine collection. And that little succulent plant in the southwestern pot. That’s my favorite thing on the entire chipboard sheet from that same collection!

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And with that, I leave you with the last of my projects for 2015.

I am thankful to leave 2015 behind and am looking forward to a brand new year filled with good things. I know there are so many exciting things coming for Gossamer Blue in the new year that I can hardly wait to tell you about. All in good time, my friends. All in good time!

Tomorrow is the January release from Gossamer Blue, so I’ll be back to share more projects then.

I hope your New Year’s Eve is a lovely and safe one, unless you’re ahead of us and have already celebrated. Then I hope it was awesome. I wish all of you only the best in the New Year. Thank you so much for all your love and support this year. Thanks for visiting my blog, for pinning and commenting on my projects. For sharing the love of paper crafting with me. I appreciate it!

More to come in 2016. See you there!

January sneak peek!

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2016 is almost upon us! And with a new month comes a new batch of Gossamer Blue kits.

I’ve been busy creating projects with the kits in between the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. I think you’ll like these kits. Here’s just a little peek at what I’ve been working on.

Also, I forgot to mention that I was up on the Gossamer Blue blog last week sharing this little project:

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You can read all about it here on the GB blog.

Catch you later! I’m off to watch my boys play basketball this afternoon. Thanks for stopping by!

December Memories 2015 /// Days 7-11

Hey there! Did the days get away from you like they did for me? I had so many good intentions of blogging last week, but in the flurry of Christmas preparations it just did not happen.

Christmas was good, and I’m thankful for one more week of vacation before the kids head back to school. The house is quiet today. The boys are away at basketball practice, and Chloe is snuggled up in a blanket on my bed fast asleep while I type this in my craft room nearby. The quiet is good. I’m taking advantage of it to catch up on blogging and crafting.

I’ve had these pages done for a while now in my December Memories album, but just didn’t get around to sharing them.

Here are days 7-11. I hope to get caught up on the rest of this album this week.

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Day 7: Our church home group served dinner at a local youth ministry. I helped make cookies for the kids to decorate. These photos were taken of some of the kids helping to decorate cookies.

This time I added the number 7 to a tag instead of adding it to a pocket like I had previously. Just for something different.

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Day 8: I spent the day baking on the 8th. I really regret not keeping count of how many dozen cookies I baked this year. It was a record breaker, I have no doubt.

I added a transparency sheet over a full page photo and added the number 8 to the transparency.

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Day 8 continued. This is the back side of the full page photo on the other side. I added another smaller photo of some of my cookies and journaled on the bottom.

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Day 9: This was kind of a sad day. At least for my son. He took his driver’s test and failed. I added the story of that here, along with a photo my husband took of a very disappointed young man texting a friend the sad news over lunch.

I added my journaling to a piece I inserted on the left side. Even sad and disappointing days should be recorded, right? It’s all a part of life.

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Day 10: I added some photos of my gift wrapping station.

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Day 11: This was the day of my kids’ school Christmas program. Each of my kids had a musical part plus their class program participation. They worked for weeks and weeks on their parts. I was so proud of them and their hard work.

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The tiny stars are from the Gramercy Road line from Gossamer Blue. The little blue stars just worked so well to add to my album.

I have a few more photos to print out of the program to add to the next page, but this is as far as I’ve gotten.

I can’t wait to work on it some more!I have so many photos to print and things I want to add. If you want to know where to find me this week, just check my craft space. I’ll be there! :)

Hope you all had a lovely Christmas and are enjoying your vacation, if you have one. Have an amazing week!

 

The presents were wrapped…

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The Christmas countdown is on! One more week to get everything ready. I feel pretty good, but there are just a few more things to do.

Things like:

  1. decide what to gift my dad who doesn’t need/want a thing.
  2. get one more thing for son #2. Part of gift already purchased. But what to add to it???
  3. make up cookie boxes to hand out to the neighbors
  4. take my boys shopping for or help them decorate ugly sweaters for the their class ugly sweater party. I can’t believe that’s really a thing! What has the world come to when you go to Goodwill in search of ugly sweaters and there are almost none to be found!
  5. finish wrapping the last few gifts
  6. purchase and package up our yearly teachers/bus drivers gifts
  7. make a plate of cookies to out of for the trash guys
  8. finish up a gift basket for my family’s themed basket exchange

My family Christmas celebration is tomorrow, so most of these things need to be finished today. I’ve got quite a list to work on today, but fortunately none of them should stake a long time. I hope to squeeze in some time this weekend to work on my December album.

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I had a lot of fun wrapping up my gifts. I was surprised how fast it went to have my gift wrapping station close by, filled with all the decorations I’d need. I definitely think I’ll do this again next year.

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My favorite gift decoration, I think, would have to be the large gold letters. It helps me to remember who the gift belongs to. But just in case I forget anyway, I also wrote the recipient’s name on the back of the letter or on the back of the gift tag.

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I’m so happy to be nearly finished with my Christmas prep. So much different than last year! Last year I was stressed and crazy busy up until Christmas Day.

I am so looking forward to Christmas vacation. I plan to:

  1. sleep in
  2. spend lots of quality time with the family
  3. scrapbook
  4. relax

That’s it. My list is short. I want to make the most out of it. Goodness, I love Christmas!!

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More to come soon!

Happy Saturday before Christmas!

 

 

Winner! And let’s talk Christmas Cookies!

 

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Hey guys! I just wanted to pop in and let you all know who the winner was in my Christmas card giveaway.

The winner is Angie who said:

“Love seeing the things you create, Brenda! And these cards are beautiful! I especially enjoyed the last one :)”

Congrats, Angie! I’ll get your prize package out to you right away.

And since I’m here, I thought I’d share a few Christmas cookie recipes with you. Baking has been a huge part of my Christmas preparations this year.  Seems like a lot more than usual. I did a whole day of baking with my sisters, and then two days on my own. That’s a lot of cookies! But we’ve already taken a few plates full to various events, the children have some plans for sharing a few more at school, and a majority of them will get boxed up and given to neighbors. Plus, I’m signed up to bring some to our Christmas Eve service at church, so there’s that too. Cookies have a way of disappearing quickly around Christmas time.

There are always some favorites that I make nearly every year, and then there are always new ones to try. I’m sharing my current list below with links to the recipes whenever they can be found online, as well as thoughts and notes about the recipe.

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For my sister’s cookie bake/exchange I made:

Italian Christmas Cookies: These are a favorite of ours that I’ve made for the last several years. I’m not sure if this recipe is exactly like mine, since mine is in a cookbook, but it looks similar. The addition of the ricotta makes these cookies pillowy soft and smooth. They disappear quickly! Plus, they look pretty on a cookie plate with Christmas sprinkles on top of the frosting.

Peanut Butter Cup cookies: I love these! I love the peanut butter cups in them and they are yummy and cutel. I usually double or triple the recipe for these guys.

Date filled cookies: I couldn’t find a recipe online like the ones I make. Mine comes from an old Mennonite cookbook. The date filling is sandwiched in between two soft, chewy cookies, kind of like a hand pie or calzone with the edges pinched shut. These are another favorite. They are a little time consuming, so I don’t make them every year. But they are a special treat, and well worth the time it takes to make them. I can post the recipe for anyone who may be interested.

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Other cookies I’ve made so far this year:

Peppermint Sugar Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting: These were easy to make and very good. I love the crunch of the crushed candy cakes on top.

Christmas Monster Cookies: There are probably a million different recipes out there for Monster Cookies. The one I used came from a Mennonite cookbook I have. I make Monster cookies throughout the year, but I made them Christmasy by adding red and green M&M’s.

S’more Cookies: These are super easy, and so good! I use my own chocolate chip cookie dough recipe and leave out the chocolate chips. I also don’t use the stacker marshmallows. I just use half of a large marshmallow for each cookie.

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Butter cut-out cookies: These are our traditional ones we make every year. We began  making these when my boys were about two and four years old and have been making them every year since. My niece was sleeping over when we made them this year, so she and my daughter helped make most of them. Then she had to leave and my second son stepped in to help finish them off. As the kids get older, they’re no longer as interested in helping to make these. I don’t know how long yet the tradition will last, but I’ll enjoy it for now. Again, I can provide a recipe for anyone interested.

Chocolatey Melting Snowman cookies: These are fun, and cute, and delicious! Chloe has already claimed a dozen of these for her classmates.

Gingerbread Cookies: My paternal grandmother was not known for her baking (or cooking) expertise. But every year she would make molasses cookies. I think I was the only one in the family that liked them. These reminded me of her cookies when they first came out of the oven. This was my first time trying gingerbread. These aren’t my favorite, but if you like gingerbread, you will like these. They do look pretty all decorated up though.

Cream Cheese preserve Thumbprints: These are another favorite. You can use any flavor of jam or preserves. I used strawberry this year. You can also omit the pecans and they’re just as good.

Peppermint Bark Cups: These aren’t cookies, but I do plan to add them to any cookie trays or packages I make to add a little color and something just a little different. They are super easy, and they are so good!

I haven’t made these yet, but I have to share the recipes anyway:

Chocolate-Caramel Delights: These might possibly be the best Christmas Cookies ever! I’ve made them several times, but I’m stingy about adding them to cookie trays. 1. because we like them too much to give away. and 2. because they do take extra time to make and I want to make sure they are properly enjoyed :). I already purchased all the ingredients, so it’s just whether or not I can muster up any more energy for baking.

Candy Cane Rolls: Again, these are not cookies, but they have become part of my Christmas baking tradition. The red cherries can be a little tricky to find, and I normally don’t even like those candied cherries. You’re probably thinking “fruit cake” at the mention of those, but these are as far from fruit cake as can be. My husband requested these again this year, so I plan to make them for Christmas morning. A little more time consuming, since it’s a yeast dough, but they are really delicious and so pretty!

And that’s the extent of my Christmas baking so far this year! If you have any questions at all about any of these recipes, I’d be happy to answer them. I love being in the kitchen covered in flour and sprinkles. Baking has always been a huge part of Christmas for me, and I love passing that down to my family. Christmas treats are meant to be shared, so I love that part of baking, sharing them with family and friends. It’s and important part of the Christmas season for me. I hope you enjoy these too.

My Christmas shopping is pretty much completed,  (yahoo!!!),  and now I have a huge stack of gifts waiting for me to wrap. I’ll be back with a few gift wrap ideas tomorrow.

Hope you’re Friday is awesome!