Friday, April 30, 2010

A Broader Sense of Freedom

I recently re-read a book I was first introduced to my senior year of high school in College Level English. I've read it three times already and probably will read it again. The book? The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood.

Caveat: I'm not certain I like this book. It portrays the nation that once was America after a hostile takeover by a frighteningly conservative (but not religious) government. The birth rate has dropped so dramatically due to chemicals and stuff that now, intercourse is highly regulated by the government in the hopes of producing more children. This is definately not a book for young eyes, but I read it as a senior with guidance. I continue to read it not because I necessarily enjoy the plot. I read it because it makes me think.

[Caveat #2: The book has nothing to do with the movie that came out in '90. Don't watch it. It's horrid]

One of the primary themes in the book is the idea of freedom. Atwood crafts a world where freedom is celebrated -- but it isn't the freedom we're used to. In this new nation (called Gilead), citizens are gaurenteed the freedom FROM. (In contrast, Americans desire freedom TO) These two concepts exist on a metaphorical seesaw: If I want a freedom FROM, I have to give up a freedom TO. One of the examples in the book has to do with clothing choice. The women of Gilead are granted the freedom FROM ogling, sexual looks by giving up the freedom TO dress how they want. All the women wear blouses and long skirts. The Handmaids (one social class in the novel) even wear those big white nuns wimples from ages ago that have the wings on them so they have the freedom FROM awkward social interactions. They have the freedom FROM advertising and filth frequently in magazines... but they've given up their freedom TO read.

What an interesting concept. It really does make me look at this nation that we live in today. We focus on our freedoms TO do certain things: dress as we want, act as we want, worship as we want, live how we want. To keep everything in balance, we've given up one important thing: Our freedom FROM instructing others how to live their lives.

I may step on some toes here, and if I do, I apologize in advance. I've put a lot of thought into this over the past several years. I'd love to hear your thoughts, but please truly think them out and comment respectfully (not that I'd ever have to remind you lovely ladies of that!).

Here I go: If we want to maintain our freedoms to live, worship, and educate the way that we desire, we have to defend other's rights to do so as well, up to the point that it crosses Biblical lines. Take gun control. I may not like guns, and I may not want one in my own home, but I'm not going to tell you that you can't. There was an issue on my college campus attempting to get a particular club that supported a subculture kicked off campus. I stood up with the members of my religious organization to protect that club's right to be there even though I disagree with their message. We can't reach out to people we've chased away, and, on a deeper note... our group could have been the next to go. After all, a lot of time authentic Christianity spreads a message that is at least as controversial.

We don't have the right to litigate lifestyle. The government has their hands in so many social aspects far beyond the original "We the people" : to form a union of states, establish justice, ensure domestic safety, provide for the common defense, support general welfare (I believe the Founders meant this in a MUCH more compact manner than currently applies), and ensure the blessings of LIBERTY for following generations. I have no right to tell anyone that they must go to church, and they have no right to tell me I can't. I can't stop anyone from marching with PETA anymore than they can stop marchers with Right to Life. That's what liberty means.

In a world that treasures freedoms TO, groups promoting freedom FROM are going to have a struggle. Up to this point in my life and the entire foreseeable future, I have avoided this type of group. It isn't effective. I would much rather meet with someone of a different philosophy than my own and truly listen to what they have to say... then earn the right to peacefully and politely share my own thoughts. A back-and-forth, give-and-take, respect-based conversation rather than an argument of catchphrases thrown back and forth. It's a skill I have yet to perfect, but by the grace of God, in time, it's a skill I hope to grown in further.

I have so many other thoughts about this, but they're a horrid jumble right now. Perhaps some day... but in the mean time I leave you with one tidbit of food for thought:

"In the days of evil and anarchy you had freedom to, now you are granted freedom from. Don't underrate it." (Aunt Lydia, in the Handmaid's Retraining Center)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Joanna's Tutorial (Or, how to take the pattern you have and make it the pattern you want)

This is a special photo tutorial for my friend Joanna who blogs at Jo-With-It's Portfolio. Incidentally, she's also the Organizing Mommy's daughter. This is specifically for her but anyone who wants to know how to take a strapless dress and turn it into a boatneck bodice! Get out your tracing paper, patterns, rulers and tape measures, and a generous amount of patience, because we're drafting patterns!
PS: There's a lot of prayer involved in this. Although I "get" the concepts and have significant drafting experience, this is the first time I've done this specific adaptation. If something is horribly wrong, forgive me. And if my drafting teacher ever sees this... well... I hope I do you a bit of justice! You taught me beautifully!
Joanna's working with this pattern, shown below. It's a cute princess line dress, currently all one piece from the top to the hem. It won't be for long :). I'm demonstrating using... well... not this pattern, since I don't have it. And, I can't tell you what pattern I'm using because I've drafted it and it has zero resemblance to the pattern I started from.
STEP 1: Trace your tissue pattern onto another paper. This is for a couple reasons. First, if you totally mess up, you still have your original to go back to. Second, tissue is weak and rips easily -- not going to hack it once we start playing with it. I prefer cut up brown paper bags simply because that's what I have. You're welcome to use whatever is large enough and a bit sturdy.

You only need the bodice part for what we're doing: trace off the waistline and above, plus a seam allowance. Make sure there's tons of paper above, since that's where we are adding. I drew my pieces side by side so that I can't get them twisted up.
STEP 2: Measure how far up the center front comes now, and how far you would like it to come up. Draw this line. (On the picture: The straight line is a continuation of the fold. The little cross mark is where I want the new neckline to be)

STEP 3:Continue up the 2 princess lines. Try and keep the angles they're currently going at. If you've started with a well-fitting bodice, you don't want to change the lay of the fabric too much.

STEP 4: Tricky part. Decide what kind of sleeve / shoulder strap you want. I'm going to draft this to be a narrow sort of strap over the outside of the shoulder. Here's another tricky part that goes along with it: you're going to need to sketch an armhole curve. My suggestion? Find something in your closet with the curve you're looking for and use that as a model.

STEP 5: Sketch in a neckline according to what you'd like. HINT: Leave it higher than you think you'll want. You can always cut it down later. Technically, when drafting, you can always build up, too.... but it's way, way, WAY easier to cut down. I want this to scoop out just below my collar bones so I'm drawing it a little above. You'll want to go over both pieces. This is where having them side by side is useful. Remember your mark from step 2: that's where you'll start from (or a bit above: remember seam allowances!) Add a notch where the side and center front will meet.

And that's the basics of drafting a pattern! Now you repeat the same concepts on the back. I typically find that the back is easier because it doesn't have nearly as much curve as a woman's front does. If you look at some fabulous 50's dresses, they play with the back a lot: making it square, lower than the front, higher... whatever. Have some fun. Since we didn't change the waist seams or the bust curve at all, those SHOULD still fit.

Here's where the rubber hits the road. Take your newly drafted pattern and some scrap or cheap fabric. Trace the pattern onto the fabric. Then, cut it out leaving GENEROUS ADDITIONAL SEAM ALLOWANCES. Why would I have you do that?
  1. You trace because that's the edge of the pattern. You want to sew whatever the seam allowance is (for most Big 4 patterns it's 5/8" in from THAT line.
  2. You leave generous additional seam allowances because you may need to adjust the fit. Remember what I was saying about being easier to cut away then add back on? This is, for lack of better term, insurance.

Sew your bodice together using long stitches. I do all my pattern work with 4mm stitches. Tight enough to hold, loose enough to take out. And I promise you, you will be taking stitches out, at least once if not 100 times (j/k -- hopefully not that often!). Do baste in your zipper into place as well. Otherwise you won't get an accurate fit.

If you're lucky enough to have a dress form, put your bodice on the form and look at the fit. Use pins and markers to make the fit *perfect*. Feel free to draw on your fabric! Take it back to the sewing machine to tighten places if need be. Grab your seam ripper and change things where you should. Do not cut anything at this point.

This is enough to get you started. Come back tomorrow for how to get from this marked upon mess on your dress form all the way to your finished dress!

Thursday, April 22, 2010


I spent some time this morning talking with a friend who had just left a Bible study at church where she experienced ugliness coming from another woman. I'm not referencing anything physical -- I'm talking about heart ugliness. This other woman continuously cut my friend off during the discussion then when it came to prayer time refused to hear my friend's request because it "didn't follow protocol." My friend was in tears and will most likely never return to the study due to this other woman's actions.

My heart is breaking over this on so many different levels. My friend is a strong Christian woman who's had a challenging life of divorce, unemployment, single parenthood, cancer treatment... just attending this study was a big step for her because she was self conscious about recent surgery scars and just how different she is from many of the other women. She's been hurt emotionally and spiritually by this experience.

My heart is sad for the other woman, too: She, a professing Christian, is acting in such an unChristian manner. What's the reason? What truth is she missing? How is she hurting, and in the process how many others is she hurting? Does she even know her actions are downright ugly?

And, for the Church. Not just our own little local church, but the global network of Christians who are called to be the body of Christ until He returns. If believers can hurt other believers so dramatically, what are we doing for the poor, the broken, the lost? Ugliness tarnishes our entire witness. Christ tells us to love each other... to wash each other's feet... to be unified. To act beautifully, not ugly. What does the world see when we act ugly?

This was just one little instance, one moment of one day where ugliness caught me full in the face. I know I'm naive... ugliness rests in so many hearts, waiting for a moment to leap out and cause destruction. I know I'm guilty of ugliness myself. But maybe, just maybe, today has opened my eyes enough to be on the lookout. Maybe by knowing the power of ugly, I can remember instead to run to Love. And maybe (hopefully) I can cause you to look out for ugly in your own homes and hearts and warn you: even a little ugly can have huge repercussions.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Bored by the Bible?

I had a conversation with a friend a few days ago.We're trying to decide what we should study together over the summer once we finish the book we're currently working through. She asked me if I ever get bored reading the Bible. You know, studying the same books again for a second time, third, or even more.

I paused for a moment, and thought, then confidently replied, "No."

How can you get bored with a book that isn't just a book -- it's the living word of God? How can you get tired of being shown truths by the Holy Spirit, truths that reflect not only the Lord but what he is doing in my heart, today? How can you run out of interest in the eternal?

I'm so much more than not bored. In fact, I'm falling more in love every day.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The "S" Word

Yesterday afternoon I was running errands and happened to turn on my radio just in time to catch the end of Chris Fabry Live on Moody Bible Radio. The whole show was on the "S" word. Not a real curse word, unless you've been brought up in today's post-feminist culture. Have you guessed it yet?


I'll let you listen to the show yourself. There was too much in it for me to do it any justice. They touched on what submission really means (honor, respect) and also what it does not mean (allowing yourself to be abused). They took calls from listeners who were really stuggling with this issue for some really heart-touching reasons. I felt my own heart challenged... I don't like to not be in control. I'm growing, but boy is submission NOT one of my spiritual gifts!

There were two definitions they presented that I just had to share because they were like getting hit in the head: "Oh! So THAT'S what that means!" May you have an "ahha moment" today as well!

1. Meekness: Strength Under Control
As in "Blessed are the meek" (Matt 5:5)

2. Submission: Voluntary Cooperation
As in "Wives, submit to your husbands" (Eph 5:22)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Multitude Monday #6

holy experience

46) A wonderful time with the Organizing Mommy and her family

47) Weddings and more importantly, Marriages

48) Unity amongst believers (more on this in a day or so)

49) Sun-warmed toes
50) When I walked to the mailbox, it smelled like walking through a perfume shop... a good one.

51) Times when the right thing and the easy thing are the same action

52) New fabric

53) A growing understanding of exactly what's been done for me through Christ

54) A deeper love for my husband and his story

55) Hope while in this world that is not our home

Friday, April 9, 2010

Jesus Protects His Own

We've just gotten through Easter this year -- Praise be to the risen lord! We heard again the old, old stories from the various gospel accounts. We sang the old, old hymns that we forget we've memorized until the first notes are played. And as looked-forward-to as all that is, if you're like me, after 5 church services over 4 days my eyes started to glaze over a little bit. My bible study group was covering John 18 and 19 at the same time.

My own obsinance got in the way. "I already know this," I self-righteously proclaimed. "Let's move on to something new." THANK GOD the Holy Spirit didn't leave me at that point. Instead, He gently took my hand and said, "Have you ever seen this part, here?" He opened my eyes. And I was floored once again by the goodness of my Savior.

Have you ever noticed how much Christ protects His disciples throughout the awful night of his arrest and trials? John records Jesus' prayer in chapter 17. It's filled with Christ's pleas that the disciples be protected: their souls, their unity, their mission. "My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one" (Jn 17:15) Then... THEN our Lord puts that protection into action throughout the rest of the night, even in the face of his own suffering!

The first place Christ protects them is when the mob arrives in the Garden to arrest Him. He asks the crowd to specifically name who they are after: "Who is it you want?" "Jesus of Nazareth" (Jn 18:4-5). He wanted everyone around to state exactly who they were looking for... so they couldn't decide to grab the disciples as well. He asks them again in verse 7. He identifies Himself as the man they are looking for both times. There is no room for confusion as to which man it is that is to be arrested.

Then, secondly, Christ asks that the followers be released. "If you are looking for me, then let these men go" (Jn 18:8). John tells us that this happened to fulfill what Christ prayed back in chapter 17: "I have not lost one of those you gave me." The disciples flee to safety.

Christ's intentional protection of His own doesn't stop there. Once our Lord is tied and dragged off to the home of Annas, the former high priest, He covers them again. Annas "questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching" (Jn 18:19). Jesus evades answering the question by stating that his ministry has always been public and that Annas should call witnesses who heard him preach (Jn 18:20). Jesus does not volunteer information about his followers. Matthew tells us that "Jesus remained silent" when questioned (Matt 26:63).

The thing that blows me away about this is that Christ was suffering so much. He was bound and beaten, struck and crucified. Yet, He wasn't concerned about Himself. He remained calm and dignified throughout his trials. He even had the strength of mind to add another layer of protection over those He loved most. Even then!

The disciples didn't recognize this protection. Poor Peter... he thought he had to protect the Lord with his sword. He didn't realize that the Lord was already protecting him.

How often is my selfish heart the same as Peter's! How often do I fail to recognize that Christ has covered me with all the protection I need! Instead, I throw up walls around my heart. I speak harsh words and defensive actions that push others out. I try to avoid situations that could cause pain to myself. But that never works. All I end up doing is... well... cutting someone's ear off... or cutting their heart deeply with a double edged sword that hurts myself.

How much better to respond as Christ! Dignified, calm, submissive. I can't always control my situation, but I can always control my response. I can have confidence in Christ's protection over my tender heart and trust that no matter what happens, I remain His. No matter what.

I challenge you to look at your own heart today. Where are you trying to defend yourself? Where are you resisting Christ's protection? The more I learn about Christ, the more I realize I still have to grow...

(I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my friend Susan who inspired many of these thoughts yesterday during Lecture on this scripture.)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Teddy Bear's Picnic

If you go out in the woods today
You're sure of a big surprise.
If you go out in the woods today
You'd better go in disguise.

For every bear that ever there was
Will gather there for certain, because
Today's the day the teddy bears have their picnic.

Picnic time for teddy bears,
The little teddy bears are having a lovely time today.
Watch them, catch them unawares,
And see them picnic on their holiday.
See them gaily dance about.
They love to play and shout.
And never have any cares.
At six o'clock their mommies and daddies
Will take them home to bed
Because they're tired little teddy bears

Every teddy bear, that's been good
Is sure of a treat today
There's lots of wonderful things to eat
And wonderful games to play

Beneath the trees, where nobody sees
They'll hide and seek as long as they please
Today's the day the teddy bears have their picnic

And just like that, the 10 little teddy bears with their 10 little tags jumped into a box and snuggled in for a long, long journey; first to Minneapolis, then to Africa where they will warm the hearts of orphaned children. I'm so glad my mom and my hubby jumped in on this project with me so that we could finish by the Easter goal! Read more from the start of our project here!

Lyrics from the song "The Teddy Bear's Picnic," by Jimmy Kennedy in 1932

Monday, April 5, 2010

Multitude Monday #5

holy experience

I'm going to be honest -- today, everything's going wrong. The washroom is flooding from 2 (!) sources, the weather is grey, I desperately need to go grocery shopping... the list goes on. But I believe in gratitude, and I also believe that finding things to praise God about may change my own heart. Even in the midst of storms, He reigns supreme.

36) Christ is alive! Christ is alive indeed! (Happy Easter!)

37) We own our own washer and dryer -- we are not bound to a laundry mat (even when they're spraying water)

38) Most things wash up with a little soap and water

39) Fresh, hot, just out of the oven bread makes everything better

40) Family game night with my parents (If you've never heard of Settlers of Catan, you're missing out!)

41) The opportunity to worship with fellow believers throughout this past Holy Week

42) Knitting

43) A freshly-turned over bit of earth for my garden -- all finished and ready for seeds

44) Girly movies and fuzzy blankets

45) The fact that, for now at least, we rent instead of own... fixing this chaos will be our landlord's problem. Everything else in it's own time.

[Edited because I forgot to add the community graphic / link)

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Ladies Against Feminism

One of my favorite sites, Ladies Against Feminism, has relaunched after a long absence. This site works to encourage girls and women in authentic femininity -- modest clothing, practical homemaking, social commentary. You don't have to agree with everything the site says to leave with some good food for thought.

I thought you might want to check it out!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Sprouted Lentil Soup

There's something alive in my kitchen. I grew them myself. And boy... do they taste good!

I've been reading lately about the health benefits of bean sprouts. Aparently, if you sprout a bean, it gets even healthier than the humble bean originally started out as. Vitamins A, B, and C continue to improve until you actually eat the sprouts because they're alive. They also have high levels of iron and calcium. And, they retain the protien from the original bean! It's like heaven in a little plant.

These are sprouted lentils. It was easy to do; you can follow one of the many sites that have good directions. I was shocked at how easy these grew. It was just a handful out of the $1 bag I picked up a shop n save months ago. I was even more shocked when I tasted one: once they sprout, they get a kind of heat to them. Kind of like spice, but deeper. I can't hardly find words for it. You'll have to trust me on it being amazing, at least until you try it yourself. I got so excited I think we ate these a few days early; you can take them up to the firm bean sprouts like you see in Asian stir frys. This was 3 days after soaking the lentils.

Then I started cooking. My hubby, who was previously a little afraid of my jar of green sitting in the corner of the kitchen, bravely took a small first bite of this soup. Then he scarfed all of his down, turned to me and asked if there was any more (there wasn't), and asked me if I'd be finishing my bowl (I sure was!). I've put the recipe below for if you decide to be brave!

It looks a little boring, but that's just because you haven't tried it!

Sprouted Lentil Soup

  • 1 cup rice
  • 1/2 onion
  • about 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 to 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup or more sprouted lentils
  • approx. 2 cups water or broth
  • Salt, pepper, and oregano to taste

At least half an hour before you want to eat, start 1 cup white or brown rice in your rice cooker or a pot on the stove. I prefer brown rice because it was a little chewy and gave a nice texture contrast.

Saute 1/2 of one onion in a little bit of butter. Add 1 to 2 cloves garlic crushed or chopped into big pieces (the smaller the pieces, the bigger the flavor). Once the onions are lovely translucent, add 1 cup or even more sprouted lentils. Saute these around for just a minute or so, then add about 2 cups water or broth (I threw in a chicken bullion cube). Add a sprinkle of salt, pepper, and oregano (adjust for your preference). Let simmer for ~15 to 20 minutes. Pour into blender and blend until smooth (or use your immersion blender if you're lucky enough to have one... that's so at the top of my Christmas list). Ladle into a bowl with a generous scoop of your rice and garnish with a few whole sprouts to look pretty.

Do let me know if you try sprouts, or if you already cook with them! I'd love to hear more ideas to experiment with!