How Many Loaves?

“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” – Epictetus, Greek philosopher

Yesterday I left on a mini day trip to see my daughter at college and thus found myself alone in my car early in the morning.  The change of season has begun and a misty fog hung over the landscape, obscuring fields and pastures as I drove.  It was a beautiful sight.  I watched as the sun steadily rose over the mountains at my left to light the valley at my right and was amazed at the breathtaking beauty of this transition from night to day.

The feeling of gentle awe continued as Emmeline and I went to take care of our objective, discovered a problem with her car that I was able to help with, and a quick grocery shopping trip allowed us to visit longer than I planned.  I felt grateful that I’d made the drive, that Heavenly Father brought me there on the morning neither of us knew she would have car trouble, that we were able to get everything arranged or taken care of in the amount of time I had available.

The drive home was equally beautiful, the sky a deep cobalt blue against now white-capped mountains and puffy white clouds.  The road stretched out before me, punctuated by the occasional barn and birds soaring in the sky.  Three hours of driving alone provided ample time to reflect on my blessings and God’s goodness in my life.

I made it home with three minutes to spare before the next time-sensitive commitment of the day – more gratitude!  My top priority task of the day was completed – gratitude! I needed to find something for another teen-aged daughter which proved difficult to track down, but with prayer and persistence I located one, had time to run buy it and made it to the school in time to drive the carpool home.  Again, more gratitude!

There is never a day that goes according to plan, but I have learned that Heavenly Father is faithful in helping me with the day-to-day hiccups of family life.   Many of the things I take care of each day must be taken care of again tomorrow, or replaced with an entire new list of urgent needs.  My thoughts centered last night on the consistency of the Lord’s help in my life, the grace that is evident in the flow of the day and the gift of a new morning.

As a family last night we sat together and followed the counsel of Thomas S. Monson to “pause and contemplate our blessings.”  We sat quietly and each of us wrote in our journals the things we are grateful for, then shared some of them with one another.  We talked about the ten lepers whom Jesus healed (Luke 17), about how we can be like the one who returned to give thanks and was made whole.  We talked about the miracle of Jesus feeding 4,000 in the wilderness (Matthew 15).  When Jesus stated his intention to feed the multitude, his disciples asked “Whence should we have so much bread in the wilderness, as to fill so great a multitude?”  So often I am like them, seeing only what is lacking and being intimidated by it!  But the Savior, once again, set a perfect example and asked “How many loaves have ye?”  Seven.  That’s it.  Seven loaves and 4,000 people.  He was not overwhelmed by what lacked.  He took what was available, GAVE THANKS FOR IT, and the miracle began.  All the multitude ate and were filled, and seven baskets of food were left over.

How many loaves have ye?  That question is on repeat in my head.

Yesterday I was reminded that God’s economy is one of abundance, that he can and will provide in ways that have no logical explanation, but which are often unlocked by using what is available to us and giving thanks for it.  When I focus on what I lack, fear always follows.  When I focus on how much I already have, happiness rushes in.

This morning I feel determined to keep the happiness of gratitude alive in my heart, to use what I’ve been given and give thanks for it – creating a shield for myself against the things I fear.  I am watching for the ways my Heavenly Father will intervene and direct my life.  I am thrilled to be given another day of life.

How many loaves do you have?  How can you use them for good?  What are you grateful for today?

 

30 Days of Bible lettering: Days 1-7

I recently started a little creative project just for fun.  I came across a challenge on Instagram called 30 Days of Bible lettering and decided to try it out.

Each day there is a new verse to letter in some way.  I gave myself some rules because I knew I would quickly judge my efforts as not good enough and the perfectionist in me would ruin all the fun.  My rule is that I get just one try – no starting over, and I have just 5 minutes to do it.  My goal is for it to be a brief creative warm-up of sorts.

I have always enjoyed writing and as a girl spent many hours practicing my handwriting, so it’s no surprise that this exercise attracts me.  I hope, after 30 days, to be a little more confident, a little better at spacing and composition, a little less shaky, and a little better in general.

Of course, the best part is the time I spend pondering the verse as I write it.  I find myself thinking about its application in my life today, about my Savior Jesus Christ, and gratitude always follows.  After all, how can you read words like “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble,” or “thy comforts delight my soul” without feeling more confident in Him?

So many of these verses are also a call to action:  love in deed and in truth, pray without ceasing, let us not be weary in well doing!  With all that is going on in our world I find these messages particularly compelling.  Pray and serve and never quit – doesn’t that sound like a great way to live?

I broke my rule on the “pray without ceasing” one because I decided to learn to draw a wreath – something I’ve never tried before.  So of course I got out a scratch paper and fiddled with it and made mistakes and then got interrupted and all of a sudden I was 4 days behind!  I came back to the challenge, took a deep breath and just did my best.  So many mistakes, but I like it.

I mentioned life has been overly full lately.  I am grateful for all we have going on but I do sometimes wonder and fear when I look too far down the road – so much needs doing!  I loved being reminded that my part is to not be weary from all of it, but to joyfully do my best and trust that it will all work out.

Bible lettering has reminded me that much of the overload is a result of that more abundant life that Jesus promised.  I marvel at the blessings being poured out on us and while I sometimes shake at the responsibility they bring, my heart runs towards them, thrilled to be living a life with the meaning and direction Jesus Christ offers.

I am currently behind again on this project, but hope to catch up.  I’m posting them on my personal Instagram account, @jenniferSharrison, if you want to follow along.  Better yet, grab a pencil or pen and join in yourself!  I might do a second round of bible lettering, using my personal favorites.  This could become a really fun habit!

Long Time Gone quilt: a beginning

Earlier this year I joined the Long Time Gone sew along on Instagram.  When I’m done sewing through all my Carolyn Friedlander projects I plan to sew through all the Jen Kingwell patterns I’ve got.  The sew along seemed like a good excuse to start early.

My plan is to use low volumes and brights.  I’d like a quilt with a lot of contrast in it, so I’ve been pulling scraps along this theme.  Many of the blocks in the Long Time Gone pattern are great for using scraps, and I enjoy using little bits of past projects and favorite fabrics to make new combinations and create quilts that are something of a scrapbook.

In fact, sometimes I wonder how long I could sew for if I only used scraps.  I always think I’ll use a lot of them but my scrap bucket looks the same when a scrap quilt is finished.  I’ve toyed with the idea of sewing for a year with only scraps, just to see what kind of creative journey it inspires.

Unlike some of Jen Kingwell’s patterns, this one is easy to follow, and a block a week isn’t too much to accomplish.  I like sew-alongs for that reason:  they break things down to small steps, provide a deadline and a way to share progress, and I feel like I get more sewing done when I commit to them.

I did a good job of keeping up with the schedule for the first while, but when my daughter was in a car accident that left her with a concussion and just a few weeks left of high school, I let everything else sit while I worked to help her regain her health and finish school.  Nearly six months later, these blocks are still waiting for me to finish the rest of the quilt.  This year has been a lot crazier than I anticipated, and a lot is on the horizon, but I hope to have a finished quilt top before the holidays.

I have a few more blocks cut out and hope to squeeze in sewing time this week!

Jennifer

 

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