Quips and Quotes
"We do not earn or merit anything by taking refuge in God. Hiding in something makes no contribution to the hiding place. All it does is show that we regard ourselves as helpless and the hiding place as a place of rescue." John Piper

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Rustle S. Crow (Not the Actor) Tutorial

Rustle Scare Crow
It's time for scarecrows! Don't know 'bout you, but I really like scarecrows. They are a real American homestead icon. On the farm, you'll find them staked in fields of of ripening corn, guarding the sweet, golden ears from... what else?...crows, of course. However, scarecrows have now become connected with fall and the harvest, even for those who have never visited a farm.

The first "real" scarecrow I made while we were living in the Napa Valley on four acres. He was LIFE-SIZE and I posted him on one side of the driveway. Once he was set in position, I continued to work, cleaning up; but every time I caught a glimpse of him in my peripheral vision, it startled me. He was so "real", that I thought some man had snuck up on me. So now I make small scarecrows, like the one here in this photo...His name is Rustle Scare Crow

My scarecrows are made from recycled or re-used materials. I did not use any kind of glue on the clothing (gently used children's clothing, size 12-months) so once I'm done with the scarecrows, I can bless a mom and child with the pants and shirt. So... without further ado, here's how I made Rustle:

Materials Needed
old stuffed doll or animal
clothing to fit - shirt, hat, overalls or pants, handerchief
1/2 yard muslin or burlap (burlap is harder to work with, but gives a really nice look)
small scraps of fabric for patches
black embroidery floss
raffia
fiberfill stuffing
black, orange, light pink, and white acrylic craft paint
twine (cotton or jute)
heavy thread I use quilting thread)

Tools Needed
scissors
glue gun
long needle
thimble

1. This scarecrow was made using a cast-off stuffed animal as a base. I found this funky-looking rabbit at a thrift shop. I purchased clothing to fit his size - overalls, shirt (they were 12-months size) and hat at the thrift shop also. I paid less than $5 for these basic pieces.
2. I cut off the ears since scarecrows don't have long ears. The head came off because the front of the face was sort of pointed. By taking the head off, I was able to turn it sideways and have a typically shaped scarecrow head.
3. I covered the scarecrow head with two layers of scrap muslin. The rabbit's black patterned fabric showed through with just one layer, but you'll see that two layers serve another purpose as well. I positioned the first of the two layers over head, smoothing the front by drawing fullness to back of head.
4. Then I added second layer, pulling the bulk of the fabric to back of the the head and tucking under the excess, like you would if gift wrapping a present.
5. Next I did the same on other side, as shown in photo below.
6. I tied both layers tight at base of head with twine.
7. As you can see, the front of the head is much smoother than the back.
8. Using a large needle (you can see how large the needle is next to the spool of thread), I sewed the head to the body.
9. Only the inside layer of muslin gets sewn onto the body, as shown in the photo below. I stitched from front to back four or five times, using a thimble when necessary. When the head felt stable, I finished and tied off the thread.
10. I smoothed the outer muslin layer over inner layer that was just stitched. As you can see, the outer layer of muslin covered the stitching for a nicer finish.
11. Next, I paced the shirt on stuffed doll, making sure that the muslin from the head was tucked into the shirt.
12. I cut a piece of muslin fabric large enough to cover one hand and have the excess extend up beyond the wrist so it could be covered when the shirt cuff was buttoned. I covered the hand with muslin, tied it loosely with twine (around the wrist) and worked the fabric around the entire wrist so that the fullness was distributed evenly, then tightened the twine and tied it in a knot.
13. Raffia was next. I bunched up some raffia and tied it with twine around wrist and then distributed it all around the wrist so it looked like the photo below.
14. I folded down the top of the raffia over the jute and hot glued along the fold, holding the raffia down till the glue cooled. Then I brought the sleeves down over the folded raffia and buttoned the cuffs, as seen below.  I trimmed the raffia so it was no longer than the hands. I then repeated steps 11-13 with the remaining hand and both feet. 
15. Next I tied jute around the waist and stuffed the shirt with straw. But if I had it to do again, I would have stuffed the shirt with fiberfill. Straw is just too messy.
16. I tied the handkerchief around the neck...  
17. ...and put on the overalls.
18. I painted the face on with acrylic craft paint, using the blunt end of a wooden skewer dipped in white craft paint to paint the dot on the eyes (dip the blunt skewer end in the paint, then dab onto a paper towel to remove excess, then touch the eye lightly for a perfect dot).
 19. Then I hot glued the hair (raffia) onto the front and back of scarecrow's head. 
20. I glued a button with some raffia threaded through the holes onto the front of the hat, glued on the hat, sewed three patches on the clothing, stuffed some raffia into the pockets and put a pail on his arm. Later I filled the pail with little pumpkins. And..."wha-la!"...Rustle Scare Crow! 
Then I proceeded to make a scarecrow from this striped down frame that was once a standing doll (for lack of a better description). I got this thing at the thrift store also for a few $s. Of course I stripped the raffia off the head and used it for all the scarecrows. That saved me at least $8-$10.
Here's the finished project...I named this guy Tom Cruzin-Through-the-Corn
And last but not least, I made a girl scarecrow. As you can see her "hair" is curly raffia, which I took off the used doll that I got at the thrift shop to make her. I ended up getting her nose a little bigger than I liked, so I named her Barbara Strawsand. She's in the photo below along with Rustle Scare Crow.
Happy Harvest from Rustle, 
Barbara and Tom!!!
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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Hormone Imbalance - Naturally Resolved

Note: It is important to clarify that hormonal imbalance is not exclusive to older women. Even teenagers can be affected by it, PMS being one of the symptoms. Please keep reading.

Me, imbalanced?

A little over ten years ago, I encountered premenopausal problems that included, emotional ups and downs, sleepless nights, difficulties with my cycle, hot flashes and more. At one point I thought I might be pregnant. Being fifty at the time, after the shear panic wore off a little, I rushed to the drugstore, purchased for the first time in my life a pregnancy test kit, flew home and to my relief, tested negative. (It threw me off momentarily, but had I tested positive I would have happily accepted it as God's will.)

My 19 year-old daughter, the youngest child, came home shortly after this excitement and found the pregnancy-test package. In sheer disbelief that her aged mother could ever bear any more children and equally alarmed that she might be wrong about that, she came running out of the bathroom, box in hand, to investigate. Her single question, "Who was THIS for Mom!!!?", confirmed her suspicions that I was the "testee" and then she writhed in agony until I told her that the results were negative. (Now I'll vindicate my daughter. She absolutely adores children and, at the time, was only concerned because I'd had additional health problems.)

For six years I had followed a regimen of hormone replacement therapy which was supposed to have helped. But my cycle had gradually become quite unbearable with profuse bleeding and clotting. (Please bear with me. If you are suffering hormone imbalance, you need details so you can begin to heal.) As it turned out, I had uterine fibroid tumors, ovarian cysts and symptoms that mimicked ovarian cancer.

Natural progesterone is derived from the wild yam plant. Although processed in a lab, the resulting hormone is molecularly identical to what our bodies make and is used by our bodies in the same way.
Natural progesterone is derived from wild yam. Though processed in a lab, the resulting hormone is molecularly identical to what our bodies make and is used by our bodies in the same way.

Saved from an unnecessary surgery

Not yet aware that the typical processed American diet destroys health, I followed the herd, listening to the popular medical media concerning diet, nutrition and everything else. When my gynecologist recommended surgery, it was only by the grace of God (through a good friend) that I was prevented from getting a hysterectomy which would have further compromised my health.

My gynecologist had prescribed both estrogen and oral progesterone. Now, six years later, after growing progressively worse, it became apparent to me that  my symptoms escalated when I put on a new estrogen patch. That’s when my friend, Mary, being ten years older than me and informed about menopause, came to my rescue by giving me a book - What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Premenopause - Balance Your Hormones and Your Life from Thirty to Fifity, by John R. Lee and Jesse Hanley, both medical doctors.

Reeducating myself about hormonal imbalance

As I read, it became obvious that to me my symptoms were caused by an estrogen overload in my body, just the opposite of what I had been led to believe by doctors, magazine articles, and the popular media, etc.

Explaining that women of all ages suffer from estrogen dominance, the book revealed that our environment exposes us to estrogen through foods we eat, plastics, pesticides, car exhaust, soaps, carpeting, furniture, etc. But I read that estrogen dominance can even involve low estrogen levels. Basically, estrogen dominance “describes a condition where a woman can have deficient, normal or excessive estrogen but has little or no progesterone to balance its effects in the body” (p. 45), so estrogen dominates.
 Women of all ages suffer from hormone imbalance.
Now, you’d think that since I was taking progesterone that my hormones would have balanced out, but it was not so. I learned that the "hormone" that I had been taking wasn’t progesterone at all, but a chemical analog of progesterone, called a “progestin”, which is very different from the progesterone my body makes. In fact, it is not produced by nature anywhere - only in pharmaceutical laboratories. That is what I had been putting into my body for six years.

Reading further, I was stunned to discover that progestins are very different from the natural progesterone our bodies make. Dr. Lee explains, “…progestins inhibit normal progesterone production and compete for progesterone receptors, thus effectively blocking one’s own natural progesterone” (p. 71). Illustrating the dissimilarity between progesterone and progestins, Dr. Lee asks, “…why is it that an ample supply of progesterone is essential for a healthy pregnancy, while even tiny amounts of progestins are contraindicated during pregnancy because they cause birth defects?”. No wonder I'd had so many problems!

Resolving my hormone imbalance

Long story shorter...I began using natural progesterone cream to balance the estrogen overload (specifically Emerita brand; for a list of quality brands please visit Dr. Lee's website). Within two months, my cycle had ceased never to return, the fibroids began shrinking, the cysts disappeared, and all the symptoms vanished. I continued using the cream for several years until I began developing a progesterone dominance. Now, 10 years later, I am still symptom and problem-free.

Symptoms of Hormone Imbalance

Since women of all ages can develop estrogen dominance, it is important to know the symptoms, which include:

PMS, breast tenderness, decreased sex drive, fatigue, headaches, dry eyes, irritability, uterine fibroids, insomnia, breast tenderness, infertility, early onset of menstruation, depression, memory loss, foggy thinking, thyroid dysfunction, fat gain, mood swings, polycystic ovaries, water retention, gallbladder disease, hypoglycemia, irregular menstrual periods, hair loss, osteoporosis, magnesium deficiency, and more. (Go here for a comprehensive list of symptoms.)
A word of caution to the wise

If you suspect that you are suffering from a hormonal imbalance, please start by getting Dr. Lee's book, which lays out how you should use the cream. It is not just a matter of rubbing some on whenever you feel like it. The cream must be used very specifically to mimic your body's own production of progesterone (for instance, 3 weeks of the month using the cream, then one week off.) If the cream is misused, it can create more problems. To further educate yourself please refer to this website.

One last thing...

When you purchase natural progesterone cream, you may notice a warning about cancer on the label. This is required by law in the state of California because progesterone's chemical analog (progestin) actually does cause cancer. Since progestins are referred to as  "progesterone", natural progesterone was implicated also. To be assured that natural progesterone is a safe product to use, please go here to read more.

Are any of the estrogen-dominance symptoms familiar to you in your experience? How have you been treated for hormone imbalance?
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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Getting Back to the Simplicity of Praying

It seems to me that we can make prayer way too hard. Jesus says we should come to our Heavenly Father as little children.

Is it difficult for a little child to need and want his mother or father? No. That just seems to be built into children.

Is it hard for a little child to ask his father or mother? No. That too, just seems to come naturally.

So why do we "older kids" make asking and trusting so difficult? That's the question I've been wondering about lately.

For years, after my kids were all out of the house and my husband was off to work by 4:30AM, I was before the throne of grace for "three hours in the wee hours" everyday. I got up with Robert to get him ready for work and didn't go back to bed. By 7:30, after three hours of praying and reading, I was ready to face the demands of the day.

But things changed. We moved. Robert stopped going to work (came home on disability). I started sleeping till 7AM. And there was no privacy in our new house. Praying became almost impossible. I was faced with all these new challenges and I didn't face them well.

It really was quite disconcerting for me. Try as I might, I just couldn't get back that 3 hour block of time I'd been accustomed to. Guilt set in and finally after 8 years of struggling in this way, cynicism rooted into my heart. The devil must have rejoiced.
But my gracious Father has taken me through that dessert and into the green pastures once again. I had made praying so difficult. The Lord is now showing me how simple prayer should be. I'd like to share what I'm learning with you:

1. Express your prayer in a breath or two. God doesn't need your ideas. Don't think that you will be heard for your many words. God knows what you need before you ask Him and He sees your heart and the intensity of desire there. (Matthew 6:7-8.)

2. Be real like a child. Children say what's on their minds without pretense. They don't try to appear to be something they are not. God sees how needy and imperfect we are and invites us into His presence to see how gracious, sufficient, compassionate and forgiving He is. (Matthew 18:3-4)

3. Be flexible about where you meet with the Lord. Don't get stuck thinking that you have to pray in a certain part of the house if there are hindrances to that. Besides, sometimes a change of pace is refreshing. Go outside if the weather is nice. (Matthew 14:23)

4. Come as you are with all your sin and disturbing thoughts. Lay them out before the throne of grace and confess your weaknesses and sins to the God of all grace. He is ready to forgive and kindly counsel you in His wisdom. (Isaiah 28:29; James 1:5; 1 John 1:9)

5. Come with all of your distractions. Don't try to ignore or overcome your side-tracked  thoughts. Admit to the Lord that you are unable to keep your mind on Him. This is simply one of our weaknesses. Confess it to Him and He will give your mind the rest it needs. (Luke 10:40)
6. Start without expecting anything of yourself. Expect wonderful things from Jesus, but don't be surprised when you disappoint yourself. Just sit down at Jesus' feet like Mary did. That was easy. She didn't come to Him thinking, "Okay, I must spend at least an hour or two here communing with Jesus, otherwise I'm really not a spiritual person." No, she just sat down and the rest is history. (Isaiah 25:1; Luke 10:39)

7. Though number seven is important, be flexible about spending more time with Jesus. Perhaps Mary thought, "I have a few moments to spend sitting with Jesus, then I'll need to get up and help Martha." But once Mary was at her Savior's feet, what she heard was so wonderful that she obviously stayed at least longer than Martha thought she should. And Jesus commended her for doing so. (Isaiah 25:1; Luke 10:41-42)

8. That brings us to the next suggestion. Don't worry that things won't get done. The demands of the day will find you, just like Martha found Mary. Of course, I'm not saying to neglect things that are important, but remember what Jesus said to Martha, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things, but one thing is needed and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her." Try to remember the one needful thing when you sit down at Jesus' feet. You'll not be sorry. (Psalm 27:4; Luke 10:39-41)

9. And that brings us to the last idea. Simplify what is temporal so you can choose what is eternal. Don't just simplify prayer, simplify your life. Take what Jesus said to Martha seriously, "...only one thing is needful...". Make prayer easier by ridding your schedule of the unnecessary things that complicate your life. (Luke 10:41)

Do you have another idea for simplifying prayer? What things could you eliminate from your schedule to make room for prayer?
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Saturday, October 9, 2010

He is Able to Keep You From Falling

Reading Spurgeon this morning greatly encouraged me. This past week has been brutal and I have found it difficult to keep my head above water. I keep running back to the throne of grace for mercy and forgiveness.

Take a few moments to be lifted by God's gracious word and Spurgeon's imparting of it:

"Able to keep you from falling."

Jude 24

In some sense the path to heaven is very safe, but in other respects there is no road so dangerous. It is beset with difficulties. One false step (and how easy it is to take that if grace be absent), and down we go. What a slippery path is that which some of us have to tread!

How many times have we to exclaim with the Psalmist, "My feet were almost gone, my steps had well nigh slipped." If we were strong, sure-footed mountaineers, this would not matter so much; but in ourselves, how weak we are! In the best roads we soon falter, in the smoothest paths we quickly stumble. These feeble knees of ours can scarcely support our tottering weight. A straw may throw us, and a pebble can wound us; we are mere children tremblingly taking our first steps in the walk of faith, our heavenly Father holds us by the arms or we should soon be down.

Oh, if we are kept from falling, how must we bless the patient power which watches over us day by day! Think, how prone we are to sin, how apt to choose danger, how strong our tendency to cast ourselves down, and these reflections will make us sing more sweetly than we have ever done, "Glory be to Him, who is able to keep us from falling."

We have many foes who try to push us down. The road is rough and we are weak, but in addition to this, enemies lurk in ambush, who rush out when we least expect them, and labor to trip us up, or hurl us down the nearest precipice. Only an Almighty arm can preserve us from these unseen foes, who are seeking to destroy us. Such an arm is engaged for our defense.

He is faithful that hath promised, and He is able to keep us from falling, so that with a deep sense of our utter weakness, we may cherish a firm belief in our perfect safety, and say, with joyful confidence,

Against me earth and hell combine,
But on my side is power divine;
Jesus is all, and He is mine!
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