Birthday Hopes

I have been thinking about life as a chapter book, with plot twists and secondary stories, and chapters.  Some chapters we can predict, and others take us to places we never imagined.  I started a new chapter this week, one that hinges on a number and a milestone birthday.  My daily life hasn’t changed, but my thoughts have.  At first I dreaded it, then accepted it, and now I’m going to embrace it.  Today, I have a few birthday hopes to record.

Most of my dread stemmed from the feeling that I hadn’t accomplished what I expected.  But along with that, however, were challenges that forced growth in other, unanticipated areas.  That story brought me to my knees and to God, changed me at the core, and still tutors me.  In short, my forties were, hands down, the hardest decade of my life so far.  Motherhood has been both my undoing and my making, and the theme continues at a higher crescendo now than ever before.  So of course it wasn’t what I expected.  I’m sure my fifties won’t be, either.  But here I am, ready to make it the best 10 years of my life.

My birthday hopes:

  1. Accept full responsibility for my thoughts and feelings, and learn to create the life experience I wish to have by controlling those two things.
  2. More fully translate my faith in Jesus Christ into moments of tension, dismay, fear, weakness, doubt, disappointment, and uncertainty.  Let the perfect plan and the perfect sacrifice of my Savior inform all my responses to life’s challenges.
  3. Tell my story in artful ways that feed my soul.  I have missed working on projects like She Listened , Living a Prayer , and Through Tears She Saw More Clearly .  My heart needs more of this, so I will create time for it AND encourage others to do the same.
  4. Be a better resource, a better helper.  In this space, that means contribute more that others can use.  Watch for the first of quarterly free patterns coming this fall.
  5. Write, write, write.  Work on family history projects I’m passionate about.  Find a way to record all the thoughts swirling around in my head and heart and put them here.
  6. Accentuate the positive.  Assume the best about people.  Look for the good.
  7. Cultivate a daily pattern of living that is in harmony with my life’s mission and which constantly moves me toward the future I envision.

There was a time, nearly ten years ago, when I didn’t know if I would ever feel truly happy again.  In that season I bought a small bleeding heart plant from a local nursery because the sight of it resonated with my pain.  At the end of the summer, I planted it in the only available spot I had – a “bit of earth” where nothing else had ever come back a second year.  Not promising.  And yet, the next spring, it was back.  It’s been back every year since, and is now a large and thriving part of that flowerbed.  This spring it was heavy laden with perfect little hearts, and I was overcome.  I paused to observe it every day, knowing it was a quiet, perfect gift from a God who loves me.

On Sunday I shared my birthday with two of my daughters.  One of them returned home at the end of June from serving an 18 month full-time mission in Guam – half a world away!  Another daughter is preparing to do the same thing in upstate New York, beginning in August. My gift was hearing them share thoughts and feelings, seeing evidence of the amazing women they’ve become.  I’ll never forget it.  My heart was full of life, love, happiness, in spite of the dark and hard things we worry about.  It was a day that reminds me to look forward in faith no matter how hard a moment, or day or month or year, may be.

So I’m taking all these memories, challenges, and perfect moments with me.  They make me who I am.  And I’m going to use them to become more ME, the girl I’m meant to be, to live well, serve fully, and carry my birthday hopes into the future.  Most of all, I want to be an encourager.  I want to bless lives.

Thanks for coming along!

The Day of Small Things

I turned on my sewing machine today for the first time in many weeks.  Let me tell you, it feels good!  The project I’ve returned to is past due but makes me smile, and it’s good to have fabric in my hands again.  I’m feeling off center, the kind that always happens when I’m away from making things for too long.  So it’s good to be back, both at my machine and here at Hopeful Homemaker.  We’ve said farewell to 2022 and welcomed 2023.  In all of it, I’ve been pondering a question found in the Old Testament, in Zechariah 4:10, “For who hath despised the day of small things?”

The day of small things.  We don’t talk much about those.  They’re not impressive and generally don’t make headlines.  In the new year goal-setting season of dreaming big and making big things happen, the day of small things is easy to despise.  Don’t get me wrong:  I believe in big dreams and big goals.  But this question has reminded me that all the big things are built on the foundation of days of small things.  Every once in a while, we get a day of big things.  Sometimes those are dreams realized; others they’re brick wall challenges.  But it’s in the living of ordinary days that we build a life.

We’re not alone because God is playing the long game in our lives. The game plan emerges over time, mostly in a series of small things.  Day after day of them, in fact.  No one is likely to write my biography.  And yet, He shows up in my small days.  I love Him for it.

So, as I write my goals for the year, I’m seeing my days of small things as gifts.  Twenty minutes a day will finish the quilt.  Or the book series.  Or root out weeds from the garden.  Organize the cupboards.  I guess you could say that everything starts small.  As I’ve shared previously , diligence is the attribute I’ve focused on for the last couple of years.  I’m obviously not done learning it because it’s still the dominant thread in all my goals.  What I’m trying to do is master it, extend the reach of this principle into everything, and use it to build bigger things.

While big things grow, I’ll respect my days of small things.  I hope you will, too.  They’re nothing to despise since they let us see God’s hand and become the foundation of all the big things that matter.

A new year full of days comprised of hours.  Make them count!  Win the next ten minutes.  We’re in good hands and things will work out!

A Lesson in Holes: My Finished Seashell Banner

A few years ago I began sewing my seashells with holes in them to this linen seashell banner .  I’ve written here and here about how I love these simple, ordinary shells.  Especially shells with holes.  After years of adding one here and there, my banner is covered in beautiful shells found on the beach.  Each one of them came from the same 1.5 mile stretch of beach where we spend time every summer, collected over years.  So here it is, my finished seashell banner.

The holes were there when I found them.  Actually, the holes represent their undoing.  The telltale hole is evidence of a drilling predator, which drilled the hole and ate the soft flesh inside, leaving the shell empty.  At some point, it washed ashore.  Unconsiously, my eyes now spot shells with holes faster than anything else on the beach.  That hole was the end of the story; but it’s the hole that makes it useful to me.

I think life is like that.  A hard thing comes along, drills into us, eats us up inside.  It leaves a mark, a hole, evidence that we’re flawed.  But the very thing that appears to be our undoing, can also be our making!  I look at these ordinary, flawed objects, and I see beauty, survival, grit.  Did you know that the older the shell is, the more white it becomes?  I look at these shells and see me, my journey as a mother.  I see my undoing and my making.

So I’ve slowly filled all the space with rows of shells, organized by size, color, type.  Each one so unique.  Look closely and you’ll never find a duplicate.  These shells I’ve collected for years are now hanging on my wall next to my study desk.  They remind me daily that my holes actually make me more useful, more relatable, more compassionate.  They are part of me and it’s ok to have been changed by them.  In fact, they’ve made me better, even if I look more flawed.  I treasure my finished seashell banner, full of memories and hope.

So many walks along the beach represented here, plus a reminder of my worth.  This was a rewarding project.  I wonder what I’ll do next with my shells…. time to start brainstorming!


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