“Playing Santa Again” Giveaway!

early snowYes, dear blog readers, it’s that merry time of year again! If you’ve followed my blog through a few holiday seasons by now, you already know that I love to play Santa—with my family and also here on the blog. Wish I could surprise each one of you with a little gift, but alas, we’ll have to settle for a giveaway with one lucky yuletide winner.

In some of my giveaways this year I’ve had fun offering hand-made products from my very own blog readers, and the “Playing Santa Again” Giveaway is a perfect opportunity to do so once again.

This time I’m happy to feature the work of studio artist Jana Botkin (see photos above and below). You may remember that I’ve featured Jana’s photography during one of my Summer Photo Fun segments here on the blog, but her art work is the star of the show today. You can read more about Jana in my Summer Photo Fun: Artist Jana Botkin post.

The winner of the “Playing Santa Again” Giveaway will win a $20 credit towards any purchase from Jana’s website. If you win, you may want to select some of her beautiful note cards or use the winnings to help buy one of her pencil drawings or oil paintings. I hope you will all go over to her site and check out her work.

To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment on this post by 6 p.m. next Wednesday, December 10th. If I don’t know you personally or cannot contact you via your website or blog, be sure to include your email address (such as cheryl at cherylbarker dot net). It’s not required for the giveaway, but to make it more fun, tell us which piece on Jana’s website especially caught your attention. One of my favorites is the Early Snow drawing above.

I’ll announce the winner of the “Playing Santa Again” Giveaway in next Thursday’s Midweek Morsel post. May you all enjoy a glorious holiday season—starting right here with Jana’s beautiful art work!

“From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.” John 1:16

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA*Photos compliments of Jana Botkin.

*Would so appreciate your continued prayers for my husband Don as he slowly recovers from the injuries he received to his spine when he fell from a ladder. I can certainly use your prayers, too, as I care for him and try to keep up with life in general. Thank you!

Look Beyond the Weakness

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Sometimes we have a tendency to label or pigeonhole people according to our perceived view of their weaknesses or flaws.

Just think of how we identify others at times, either in our thoughts or in actual conversation. We say things like oh, she’s the heavy one, the homely one, the ditzy one, the gossip. Or he’s the string-bean, the nerd, the boring one, the loser. Unfortunately, unless we’ve taken time to look beyond the weaknesses or flaws, we tend to think of them in terms of these not-so-flattering labels.

Even Thomas, one of Jesus’ disciples, has been remembered down through the ages as doubting Thomas. Yes, he did in fact express doubt when told about the resurrection of Jesus, and that event is detailed in John 20:24-29. Unfortunately, that’s how most of us remember him.

However, Thomas also displayed great courage. When Jesus wanted to return to an area where the Jews had previously threatened to stone him, the other disciples questioned Jesus about wanting to go back. Thomas, on the other hand, said, “‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’” (John 11:16b)

Maybe it’s time that we look beyond Thomas’s weakness and notice his strength—and maybe it’s time we do that for others as well. Let’s take time to look past whatever weakness or failure we see at first and look for the best in one another. Let’s be overheard saying things like oh, he’s the brave one, the funny guy, the giver, or she’s the creative one, the kind one, the peacemaker.

Yes, let’s look past the weaknesses. Let’s look through eyes of love. Let’s look beyond.

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up . . .” 1 Thessalonians 5:11a

*What do you hope people see when they look beyond your weaknesses?

*Flickr photo by Flood G., Creative Commons License

Discovering Gems—Once More

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*Hope you enjoy this encore presentation from June 2008.

Last Friday while on an outing to a nearby town, my friend Teri and I discovered a gem. A beautiful and unique little shop nestled right in among the ordinary businesses on the ordinary streets of our very ordinary little corner of the world.

We wanted to go to lunch for a girlfriend catch-up session and decided to make a quick trip to Independence. We had heard about a quilt shop there that had recently been selected as one of the top ten quilt shops in the nation. In our neck of the woods? We needed to see this with our own eyes.

We were not disappointed. As we entered the shop, we seemed to step into another world. The high ceilings and rich-looking furnishings along with the beautiful and creatively displayed quilts and accessories created an ambiance of a luxurious and delightful retreat from the outside world. Everything we saw held a special touch. We were awestruck by the quality of goods and workmanship. And for those of you who know I don’t even own a sewing machine and am craft-challenged — yes, even I could spot the quality here :)

What fun to discover this gem of a shop in our own backyard. Teri was in her element, and me? I tried hard to fit in. When the salesladies were around, I just acted like I knew what I was looking at, and then when they walked away, I asked Teri one elementary question after another. Know what I discovered, though? You don’t have to understand all the facets and complexities of a gem to enjoy its beauty. I loved the shop.

As I think about us as individuals, I know a gem could be found in each one of us as well. Something beautiful and unique. Something quality. If others looked into your own very ordinary life, what gem would they discover? Would they find a master quilter, an artist, or a gourmet chef? Perhaps a talented athlete or musician? Or maybe like me, you’re just good with words. The possibilities are endless, aren’t they?

So take a closer look at yourself as well as others in your life. There’s beauty all around. Go ahead – have fun discovering gems!

“…its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel…” Revelation 21:11

*What gem have you or someone else discovered in your life?

*Flickr photo by Jewellery Monthly, Creative Commons License

Wedding Savings Tip: Make It Yourselves!

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Mother of the Bride, as you look for ways to save on the multitude of wedding expenses in front of you, be sure to ask yourself this question: Can we make it ourselves? Of course, expense is still involved when making things yourself, but the cost can many times be cut in half or more.

Start by making a list of all the items you or the bride or other family members and friends could possibly make. Your list might include: the bridal gown and veil, the garters, bridesmaids dresses, flower girl dress, your own dress, bouquets and boutonnieres, favors, pew bows, invitations and programs, the cakes and/or other food for the reception, and centerpieces and other décor. I’m sure you’ll be able to add other ideas to your list as well.

But keep this in mind—several factors need to be considered before deciding to make some items yourself.

*Do you or someone you know have the skills needed to make the items?

*Will the savings be significant enough to justify using your time in making certain things?

*Do you (or the person making the item) truly have the time to give to the project or will it add too much additional stress?

*And also, is there enough time before the wedding to make the items on a reasonable schedule?

Remember, MOB, always balance the savings against the stress and time involved. After you’ve made your decisions, go forward with joy. If you can save a little money while making your daughter’s big day one that she’ll remember forever, what a great bonus it will be. But if you need to buy most items to save your sanity, that’s a bonus, too, right?!

*You might also like to read Wedding Savings Tip: Borrow! 

*Flickr photo by thepatrick, Creative Commons License

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Strengths and Weaknesses: Where’s Our Focus?

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I ran across a description of the ostrich recently while reading my Bible (Job 39:13-18), and that poor monster of a bird seems to have more weaknesses  than strengths.  In the span of six verses of scripture, at least five negatives are highlighted, compared to only one, maybe two, positives.

The ostrich’s weaknesses include: her wings flap joyfully but can’t compare to the pinions and feathers of the stork (v.13), she lays her eggs on the ground where they might be stepped on and crushed by man or beast (v. 14-15), she treats her young harshly—as if they are not even hers (v. 16), God did not bestow wisdom upon her (v. 17), nor did God give her an ounce of common sense (v. 18). Nothing like having our shortcomings laid out there for the whole world to see, huh?

But in spite of these weaknesses listed one after the other, the passage about the ostrich ends by highlighting her great strength. Verse 18 says, “Yet when she spreads her feathers to run, she laughs at horse and rider.” In other words, the girl can run. In spite of her many faults, her strength shines above all. Yes, God has given her a special talent, a special ability.

I don’t know about you, but like the ostrich, I have a lot of weaknesses, too—lots of things I’m not very good at doing, areas where I have very little talent at all. Some of the weaknesses are even character flaws or problems with sinful attitudes or reactions. I could make a list of my weaknesses here to rival and go beyond the length of the ostrich’s, but I’ll spare you the gory details.

That’s not the end of my story, though. Just like the ostrich, God has given me a few special talents and abilities. I don’t have to be mired down in my weaknesses and inabilities. I can choose to focus on my strengths and use them for God’s glory. Like the ostrich, I can run with what God’s given me.

Will you join me in focusing on the strengths God has blessed us with? As we do so, we will surely flourish the way he intends. Let’s not highlight our weaknesses. Let’s shine for him!

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 KJV

 *What strengths and abilities has the Lord given you?

*Flickr photo by flowcomm, Creative Commons License

*The current issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, came out last week. It’s not too late to receive it. Sign-up is free and to the right!