Sunday, June 30, 2013

Becoming a Circle Maker

I just finished a book that joins the canon of books that have profoundly influenced my life and specifically my relationship with Christ. The Circle Maker, by Mark Batterson, joins such greats at The Purpose Driven Life and A Thousand Gifts.

It has revolutionized the way I think about prayer and the importance and absolute necessity it has in every person's life.

When you come to see that each prayer you pray is a seed that will one day grow and come to fruition -- maybe not today, or tomorrow, or in your lifetime, but one day -- it will change not only the quantity of your prayers, but the quality.

Batterson challenges us to be specific in our circle those things in which we long to have God do a miracle work.  I could say more -- a lot more -- but suffice it to say, it is a must-read for every praying person and for those who would wish to be.

I highly recommend it for your book club, small group, or your own personal reading. There is a great website of sources and even a video companion.

And now that I have finished reading the book, I am inspired to "Dream Big. Pray Hard. Think Long," as Batterson encourages.

However, I am a visual person and...well, let's be honest...a forgetful person. Knowing this, I went looking for an "easy kit" for circle making.

And couldn't find one. I wanted to be able to specify my requests, but be able to change them out from time to time. I wanted to be able to hang something up in a place I pass by often. But I couldn't even find a template for paper circles.

So, I decided to create my own.

Here's how I did it (a list of supplies is at the end of this post). And just so you know, I do not consider myself to be extraordinarily crafty. This is probably a mere 3 on the Craft-ability Scale. So don't let all the photos and instructions intimidate you. Basically, if I can do this, pretty much anyone can!

First of all, I needed a sign or board of some sorts to hang the circles from. I found the perfect thing at a fun and funky boutique shoppe called "Vintage on Fourth" in downtown Clovis (and yes, those are my blue-painted toes.)

I love the "distressed wood" they use for their signs. It's very rustic, and that speaks to me since I view myself as raw and unfinished rather than sleek and polished. (They also already were ready to hang, but if you are making yours, you'll need some metal hanging line and either wood tacks or short nails to create your own hanger.)

After I found those signs, the rest fell into place. I grabbed a red one for my friend -- who has been reading the book along with me -- and then I grabbed a white one for myself.

I did, however, clean the chalkboard portion and re-paint it with my chalkboard paint so that it would be "fresher" looking.

If you don't live in Clovis, then you might have to improvise and either try to create your own (a rustic 2 x 4 might do the trick) with what you have. You don't have to use what I did. You could even use a bulletin board and modify it.

I stopped at the hardware store and bought 7/8" brass cup hooks, which I screwed into the bottom of the sign boards, using a ruler to get them the same distance apart from each other and from the bottom of the sign.

My biggest problem was figuring out how to get holes into the metal canning lid inserts. (Note that you can get the lid inserts in either brass or silver finish. This would also change what finish of cup hooks you would buy as well.)

I've heard that some hardware stores would probably be willing to punch holes in a small amount of items. Someone else suggested a heavy duty drill bit. Another person was sure a roofing nail and a heavy hammer could do the job. If you cannot get your hands on what I used, then ask the handy person in your life what he/she would recommend.

A friend lent me her "hobby anvil" which was nice because not only was it nice and heavy, it has a square opening for pounding holes into objects. Along with the hammer and the metal "stick" you see, I was able to tap holes into the top of each lid above the "a" in "Ball."

 As demonstrated here....

The number of circles you can hang will depend on the size of the board. The red board is about 16 inches and the white one underneath it is about 21.5. The red board fit 4 circles and the white one fit five.

There are two ways that you can make the "circles." You either make chalkboard circles or wipe-clean (dry erase) circles. Or in my case, I have both options as pictured below.

Both utilize the "wide-mouth" canning jar inserts. Ball makes a nice one that you can buy new in packs of 12. Or you can pull together used ones from yard sales, friends and family and thrift stores. Either will work.

If you choose the wipe-clean method, you will need to print out this circle template I modified from an image I found on the internet. Simply save to a USB drive (or your computer) and either print at home or Office Max, etc.

Grab scissors, a ruler, clear contact paper.

Use a regular sized canning jar lid to trace a circle around the back of each square. If you don't have one, anything that measures 2 11/16 across will do...a cup, lid, etc.

Flip over and then cut out circle. The template above has been adjusted so that you can get more of the "rough draw" of the circle that you see below. The ones I printed were bigger and thus I didn't get as much of those "sketchy" lines that I wanted that mirror the image on the book cover.

After you are finished, cut out a strip of clear contact paper that is 1/2 inch bigger than the width of the circle, and a little over double the height of the circle.

Peel back the contact paper and lay it sticky side up. Place the circle face down on the top part of the paper. Carefully fold the bottom portion of the contact paper up and smooth out any air bubbles.

Cut away the excess contact paper to the edge of circle. Use a single hole punch to make a hole in the top of the circle. I hold the circle onto the metal lid and then flip over and mark with a pencil where I need to punch to link up with the hole in the lid.

Glue your circle onto the metal circle making sure to line up both holes. (I used super glue.) Voila!

 You have a wipe-clean surface you can use with any dry erase marker! If it's been on there awhile, you might need to use either window cleaner/paper towel to get it off or a magic eraser if it's reaaaalllly been on there for awhile.

The finished product for the wipe-clean circles looks like this.

The other method is the chalkboard paint method. You'll need a craft paint brush and chalkboard craft paint. I found both at Michaels. (I have also heard that chalkboard spray paint also works well, but I haven't personally used it.)

Before you put on that first coat of paint (and it will take 4-5), you will want to scratch up your lid to get the paint to adhere better. I have a steel wool brush that I use, but regular steel wool should do the job.

Lightly paint on your first coat and let dry completely. If you haven't scored the surface well enough, or you paint too soon, it will end up peeling off the first coat of paint and making a mess. Repeat x 4.

As you can see below, I left mine really rough and "sloppy" around the edges since I was (again) mimicking the cover art on the book.

I wanted precision writing for my chalkboard circles, so I used my 40% off coupon at Michaels and bought some Pastel Chalk Pencils.

 But you can certainly use regular chalk if you don't want to add that expense.

Here is the finished product with the chalk circles.

There are more ways that something like this could be made. I chose to make mine this way because of the signs I found and the items I had on hand (believe it or not, I had two unopened boxes of canning jar lid inserts in my garage.)

The only limit is your imagination.

Enjoy and feel free to pass it on! Feel free to ask questions. And if you can, post a comment with how you changed it or how your Circle Board has helped you to dream big, pray hard and think long!


List of Items Needed:

  • Sign board (will vary according to your preference)
  • Hobby anvil, hammer, etc. or method of putting holes into lids
  • 4-5 "wide-mouth" canning lid inserts
  • 1 regular canning lid insert or circular template that is 2 11/16 across
  • 4-5 7/8" cup hooks
  • Single hole punch
  • Pencil
  • Ruler

Option 1:

  • circle template print out
  • glue (super glue or gorilla glue)
  • clear contact paper
  • scissors
  • dry erase pens
Option 2:
  • chalkboard paint
  • craft paint brush
  • metal brush or steel wool
  • chalk or pastel chalk pencils

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The God Who Loves Lexi

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I have been reading an amazing book called, The Circle Maker, by Mark Batterson. And it's prompted me to press in harder and longer with my prayers -- to believe that God is for me and that when I pray according to His will, that He will answer me. It may not be today, or tomorrow. It may be 10 or 20 or 30 years from now. But He will answer.

Beyond that, I have also been asking God to speak to me, and more specifically, I have been praying that He would help me to listen for his voice.

So often I'm guilty of hurling petitions and thanks in God's direction, but I so infrequently stop and take the time to allow for the space and quiet for Him to reply.

When is the last time you sat in utter stillness after praying and let God speak?

If you're like me, it's been far too long.

And God has been speaking. It's incredible.

About a week ago, I dropped the kids off at the respective classes at church and then got ready to leave the church campus like I'd planned. Because I attend a weekly Bible study, am part of a book club, and mentor someone twice a month during the Wednesday night weekly church service, I do not attend the adult class.

And so, I was walking through the church foyer on the way out to my van and my laptop that I had brought with me so that I could attempt to write at a nearby Starbucks, when I clearly heard the word, "Stay" in my spirit...brain...heart. I'm not sure I can pinpoint where I heard it, but I heard it.

I mentally sort of shook it off and kept walking and chalked it up to my continued pastor's daughter guilt of not staying for a church service (cuz, yes, I feel that sometimes even though I am "churched up" throughout the week in other ways). I kept on walking through the parking lot, got to my van and got in and put the key in the ignition and then I heard it again....."Stay."

By now, I had the feeling that I wasn't just hearing things or acting out of guilt. I still somewhat doubted that it was the voice of God, but as soon as I thought about the doubt, I remembered that part of discerning and hearing God speak is being faithful to do what He says. So, I figured I would take Him at His word....literally.

So, I removed the key, got out of my van and went back inside to be a part of an amazing worship service in progress. After, one of the pastors spoke for a bit and then played a portion of a DVD study on The Circle Maker. Now, I didn't even KNOW that they had a DVD series, and can you guess what Mark Batterson talked about?

Praying to hear the voice of God!

I was so excited, I texted my friend (whoops...caught me texting in church), who was literally flat on her back dealing with acute sciatica. Two days prior, I had been doing dishes and thinking about her when I felt that voice again telling me to give her my Circle Maker book. (Mind you...this was my second copy. The first I had "somehow" left at a friend's house on a family vacation and I'm still waiting to hear how God uses that book in my dear friends' life.) Anyhow, back to my second copy. I knew that I was supposed to give it to her and tell her that God was giving her a choice to either spend her time on her back and in pain in prayer and hope or give over to despair and depression.

She chose prayer and hope and I had spent some time reading the book to her. She had started praying circles around things/people in her life, and was seeing some amazing things. I had texted her to tell her what God was doing in my life right then and she asked if she could somehow see the DVD as well.

After an amazing time of prayer, I approached the pastor and asked him if it might be possible to borrow the DVD after the church was done with it. He said, "why...would you know that tonight is the last night of the series and I actually looked at it this afternoon and thought, 'what am I going to do with this this DVD now?'"

"I'll tell you what you can do with it," I told him, and then proceeded to explain about my dear friend. He happily went upstairs to get the companion guide and gave me both, which I was able to send home with my friend's husband that night.

So, what if I hadn't obeyed that prompting and if I hadn't stayed?

Only heaven knows. Is God big enough that He could get the DVD series to my friend who desperately needs it right now?

Yes, He is!

But I think that He wanted me to be a part of this continuing story. It built my faith. It built my pastor's faith, and of course, it built my friend (and her husband's) faith.

And it continued bearing fruit.

Two nights ago as we were driving home, my sister sent a copy of a text she had received from her son who was on a missions trip with the youth group about how God had spoken to him about his participation on the trip and that he wanted my nephew to continue going on trips and helping people.

My ten-year-old piped up from the back of the van and said, " come their family is always hearing from God, and God doesn't speak to me?" She got emotional and said she didn't understand how come he wouldn't talk to her.

My husband explained the different ways we can "hear" the voice of God and how it's important to ask Him to speak to us and then be ready to listen when He does speak.

That was my cue.

I was able to share my recent story with my beautiful daughter and assure her that God does want to speak to us and He will. I encouraged her to pray and ask Him to share His heart with her and then to be bold enough to listen and act.

I'm confident that she will soon be sharing a story of God speaking to her little heart.

So, who is Lexi, you might be asking?

Well, during this week of God doing amazing things, the story of Lexi is another amazing one.

My mom gave me a bag of items that was donated to the church she works for that she thought my kids might enjoy. There was a series of chapter books and then a Veggie Tales CD. What my mom didn't realize is that the CD was personalized with the name, Lexi, on it. This means that all the songs are sung to and have the name Lexi in them. We actually have one that is personalized for one of my kiddos, and therefore I know that while it would be fun to listen to the songs, it wouldn't be as much fun when the name they are singing is not your own.

I thought about tossing it, then donating it again, or even posting it on Facebook for someone to claim.

And then I went to pick up my kids from VBS. As I signed out daughter #2, I happened to glance over at a little girl in her group and there on her shirt, I saw the name, Lexi.

I freaked out inside.

First of all, 90% of the kids do not have their names written on their VBS shirts, but this little girl did.

Second, this little Lexi was in my daughter's of probably 30 groups with a total of probably at least 200 kids attending total. And I think that's being conservative.

Third...her name was spelled, Lexi. Not Lexie, or Lexee.


I smiled and said, "Lexi...God has something that He gave me to give to you. It's a Veggie Tales CD with your name on it and in the songs. Would you like it?"

She shook her head shyly and that was that. I put the personalized CD in her little hands today and she smiled at me.

He knows Lexi by name.

Just as He knows mine, and He knows yours.

And He'll go to crazy lengths to make sure we know it.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Man of Steel: A Tribute to the Unsung Heroes Among Us


With the opening day of the new superman movie, "Man of Steel" and Father's Day vast approaching, I have a confession to make...

...I take my husband for granted.

Or rather, to be more specific, I often take my husband's fathering skills for granted.

You see, my husband did not have the best example to follow for how to be a good father. Without going into detail, suffice it to say that there has been a lot of disappointment in the fatherhood department. Contact over the years has been minimal; it has not been deep. It has not been fulfilling.

I have cried many tears over it. My husband has none left.

You would think that a lack of a present and caring father in my husband's life would make him detached, distant, cold, and harsh with his own children.

In fact, he is the complete opposite.

He is completely involved in each of their four little lives. He can make dinner, give baths and type out a Facebook status like a parental pro. He reads "The Last Unicorn" to his daughters to share his love of fantasy novels, and builds hot wheel and marble tracks with his sons to display his feats of engineering.

He is unafraid to wade into the bog of "Teaching Your Pre-teen About Reproduction" when his eldest daughter was adamant about understanding "what is this sex thing all about". He is equally unafraid to clean up the vomit-coated toys in the toy box when his son was unable to get to the bathroom in time.

I was able to confidently leave him with three little dependent people for 10 days when I went on a trip to Africa and he survived! The house was even clean when I came home. He can do everything I can do as a mom -- and some even better!

Simply put...he is a loving and engaged father.

I still marvel at that.

How is possible that a man with virtually no good example of what a be-there-everyday-clean-up-after-my-child-without-complaint, could be that very thing?

And the more I have thought about it, I have come to realize that I know many such I-can't-believe-how-awesome-he-is kind of fathers. In an age where fathers have rapidly left the picture, many have chosen to plant their feet and be what they have not had the opportunity to see firsthand.

Here are my thoughts on how this phenomenon occurs:

1.) Never underestimate the power of a praying mother, grandmother, grandfather, etc. I know this to be true for my husband. His own mother and others were committed to pray that he would know the love of God as a heavenly father, and that he would be loved by fathers along the way that would show him a Godly and loving example of fatherhood. I also know that she prayed that he would marry into a family with such a father.

2.) They are able to see the issues and failings of their own father, forgive them and figure out how not to do the same thing. Introspection is key. The successful fathers I know that have not had a great example to follow have been able to honestly face up to the lack, mourn it, allow God to heal it, forgive it and then purpose to be a different kind of dad.

3.) They have determined and planned how to do things differently with their own children. Similar to what I listed above, this goes beyond "seeing" the problem, but actually planning on how to do things differently. That old adage rings true: "fail to plan...plan to fail." The successful dads I know have already thought through how they will parent in certain scenarios. They have also asked friends and family to help them to stay accountable and engaged with their children. I love this about them!

And...unfortunately, I know a few not-so-good fathers who have come from some of the best there are out there. Once again, I see that being a lovingly engaged father comes down to a choice to be that very thing.

4.) They pray, pray and then pray some more. We all know that parenting is one of the toughest gigs out there. For those men who have not had a good example of fatherhood and in fact, may have had a terrible example of fatherhood, the very idea of being that man terrifies them and brings them to their knees on a constant basis.

5.) They marry a wife that believes that they are more than their childhood would say they could be. If there is anything I've learned about marriage over the past 14 years is that a husband needs to be a rock star, super hero, and an MVP in their wife and family's eyes. There can never be too many words of affirmation, pats on the back or jobs well done. And this is even more true for a man who has had a lack of parental love, support and presence. If you believe in him, he will believe in himself.

I know that it's not this simple and formulaic, but I know these things to be true in my bones. I know many wonderful fathers who have risen above their own wretched experience and have become more. I know it has not been easy, but I know they have each made the choice to do it.

I admire it.

I respect it.

I am in awe of their dedication.

So, for all of you fathers out there who are choosing to be lovingly engaged in your children's life, I heartily cheer you on and celebrate you!

You deserve all the accolades of the finest athlete and biggest super hero!

And to my husband...honey, you are our "man of steel" and you are loved.

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