Busy Hands

Let God's light shine through you!

Let God’s light shine through you!

“A time to rend, and a time to sew . . . ” Ecclesiastes 3:7

Just thought I would share with you the projects I completed in 2014.  I’m not sure how I found the time to do all of this, but it happened!  Click on each photo to read more about the project.

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2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,800 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 30 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Come Be With Me

“Only goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come.”  — Psalm 23:6

Colored Edges EffectOnce again I was honored with the task of creating the Hospice Memorial Quilt for McLean’s in Simsbury, Connecticut.  Each year, the family and friends of those who passed away are asked to decorate a six-inch fabric square to honor their loved one.  I then take those squares and create a quilt, which is displayed at the McLean’s facility.

On the evening of November 25th, at the annual “Lights of Hope” ceremony, the quilt was unveiled.  Here is my speech which I gave just prior to the quilt being revealed:

First, I would like to thank a few people for helping me to create the quilt. Thank you to Elizabeth Scheidel for the very time-consuming and hard work of the embroidery on the quilt. I used to make embroidered samplers but I switched

Poem stitched by Elizabeth Scheidel

Poem stitched by Elizabeth Scheidel

to quilting because quilting is faster, so I really appreciate that Elizabeth is willing to do all that stitching. I also want to thank my friend, Maria Gerard, who hand-stitched the binding around the quilt. That, too, is very tedious work and it was a tremendous help. Mostly, I would like to thank my husband of 37 years, who supports me through all my volunteer work and other crazy adventures. And by support, I don’t mean just financially. Sometimes other quilters might look at something I made and they express interest in making the same thing so they ask, “how much time would it take?” I usually say six weeks if your husband washes the dishes, does the laundry and cooks dinner. Three months if he doesn’t! I honestly couldn’t do this work without Ted.

When I was first asked to create the Hospice Memorial Quilt about three and a half years ago, I knew I would have to carve out some space in my fall schedule and I knew it would be a fair amount of work. I also knew it would be a challenge as these types of quilts pose additional challenges since my starting point is based on the creations of others – your creations. Because I have little control over what you create, I had to deal with letting go of some control. That’s a difficult thing for artists!

Attendees seeing the quilt for the first time.

Attendees seeing the quilt for the first time.

What I did not realize was how emotionally invested I would become in the process of making these quilts. Like all human beings, I have not been immune from tragedy and loss. In fact, today happens to be the anniversary of the loss of someone very special to my family. As I worked with the fabric blocks, read your words, handled your creations and looked into the eyes of those you lost, I grieved for all of us. In times of my own personal grief, there were days when I wondered how the sun could possibly still rise each day when such a vital person – a friend, a spouse, a parent, a child – is no longer here to feel its warmth and see its glow. Perhaps you have had days like this.  I don’t know the answer, but I do know while getting to know your loved ones through the memories you embedded on six-inch squares, the emotions stirred within me, and through them, I

Finished Quilt and Me!

Finished Quilt and Me!

was inspired. The ideas flowed and the quilt emerged. You trusted me with your special memories and I thank you for that honor.

When working on last year’s quilt, there was something about the fabric I chose that inspired me to write a poem, which I read at the 2013 unveiling ceremony. Though I am a writer, I don’t usually write poems. In fact, that poem was probably the third one I had ever written in my life and it wasn’t something I thought I would make a habit of doing. So, when I was finishing up this quilt, I thought to myself, “I guess I won’t be writing a poem this year” as nothing had come to me. Would you believe, in the very next second, a poem popped into my head? It must be a sign that I am meant to share it.

Come Be With Me

Come sit with me

as we did in the spring

by the budding tree

to hear a baby bird sing.

Come walk with me

as we did in the summer

on the tree-lined path

where the butterflies flutter.

Come run with me

as we did in the fall

shuffling through leaves

where sunflowers grew tall.

Come dance with me

as we did in the winter

by the warmth of the fire

our hearts in the center.

Come talk with me

as we did all year

please know I’ll hear you

when you whisper our prayer.

 

Dorothy J. Szypulski
November 25, 2014

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Contemplation

God Bless America!

God Bless America!

“Seeking face of God in everything, everyone, everywhere, all the time, and seeing His hand in every happening – that is contemplation in the heart of the world.” – Mother Teresa of Calcutta

It seems we can’t get through a week without hearing on the news about a horrible tragedy,  a catastrophic weather event. or an unimaginable act of

Tsnunami

Tsnunami

evil inflicting pain and suffering on innocent lives.  I’ve heard people ask,  “Where is God in this?” or “How could God let this happen?” At times of deep personal loss, I have asked those questions myself.

I now have come to realize, especially when reflecting on our world’s long history, tragedy,

World Trade Center

World Trade Center

catastrophes, and evil have been here since the beginning of human existence.  This is the downside of the precious gift of being both a spiritual and a biological life — we are vulnerable.  We are at the mercy of others’ mistakes and subject to flukes of nature.  We are at risk of being hurt by those who lack a moral compass.   We are constantly reminded of how little we can control.  On any given day, we could be a victim of pain, suffering or loss.   There is not one of us who is immune from hardships.

Tornadoes

Tornadoes

Graciously, there is an upside!  We are also vulnerable to great joy!  We value joy so much more because we know suffering.  Try to imagine how you would gauge happiness if you never experienced sadness.  How special would it be to win a game if you never lost one?  Would it be just as wonderful to attain a college degree, win an award or finish a marathon if everyone everywhere achieved those same goals every day.  If failing grades were never given, would an “A-plus” mean anything special?

I am not saying we should welcome suffering or accept evil.  We should do all we can to

Boston Marathon

Boston Marathon

shelter ourselves and others from needless pain.  I am just sharing how I believe we should not see God in the negative aspects of life but rather in the positive ones.  God is in the “upside” of life.

When I read Mother Teresa’s words for the first time a little over a year ago, my thoughts went immediately to the heroes I have seen run to help others in times of crisis.  I thought about the firemen who entered burning buildings to save lives.  I thought about the teachers who shielded their students from gun fire.  I thought about the doctors who, at a moment’s notice, pour all of their experience and knowledge into restoring a heartbeat.  I thought about the thousands of soldiers marching toward danger to fight for our freedom.  I thought about countless others, day after day, who run to the aid of victims of evil and tragedy without regard for the dangerous risk they will face.  I see God’s hand in these tragic happenings because he sends his angels — they are our American Heroes!

Sandy Hook Elementary School

Sandy Hook Elementary School

Mother Teresa’s words inspired my thoughts which inspired this quilt, “Contemplation.”  The center block is representative of God’s light in America, because at the very core of America’s founding are God’s words.  The appliqued pictures surrounding the center depict events which most prominently stood out in my mind in recent years  – Twin Towers, Aurora Movie Theater, hurricanes, Sandy Hook School, tornadoes, Boston Marathon, tsunamis, Virginia Tech and other schools.  The four angel

American Angel

American Angel

blocks are there to remind us in times of peril, God will send His angels.  Around the blocks I named the angels who run to do God’s work.  The outer border colors, and also interspersed within the quilt, represents America — red, white and blue.  I am a proud American because God shows me everyday just how special it is to be here!

This quilt is my way to honor the heroes of America.  I am in awe of all of you. I honor your strength of character and your courageous heart.  I thank you and I pray for all of you.  May God bless you and keep you in His loving embrace.

"Contemplation"

“Contemplation”

 

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To Err is Human; to Forgive is Sew Worth it!

Then Peter approaching asked Him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?”  Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” – Mathew 18:21-22

Be ForgivingForgiveness can be difficult.  I don’t struggle with whether or not forgiveness is necessary.  There’s no question about it —   When there has been hurt by another’s actions, forgiveness is always necessary.

When you have been hurt by someone, the act of forgiveness is not so much for the “someone” but for you.  Harboring anger and unforgiveness is detrimental to your physical, emotional and spiritual health.  For me, it zaps my energy and stifles my creative spirit; and therefore,  I am not able to function at my best to share my gifts as I like to do. There’s an old saying that goes something like this:  When you are sitting at home being angry, the person who wronged you is out dancing!  Your inability to forgive is mostly just hurting you.

Forgiveness must be done regardless as to whether or not the issue has been resolved.  Very often, a resolution never comes.  Many years ago during a Sunday homily, the priest said, “Forgiveness is essential, but ‘forgive and forget’ was not said by God.  It was said by Shakespeare (King Lear, Act IV, Scene VII).  It is impossible to forget.  I say, ‘forgive and remember.'”

The gist of that priest’s homily was to say, Jesus wants us to forgive, but He also wants us

Let Jesus carry your burdens.

Let Jesus carry your burdens.

to learn from the experience.  Most importantly, He wants us to protect ourselves.  For example, if a woman was in an abusive relationship, for her sake she needs to forgive, but at the same time, she must stay away from the abuser.  Forgiveness does not include going back to carry on as if nothing had happened.  Forgiveness is to say, “I forgive you,” and then move forward in a healthy way.  Very often that entails never going back to risk being hurt again.

My struggle with forgiveness is not about “if” but rather “when,” as in when have I

forgiven enough?  A misspoken word, a forgotten meeting, or a minor accident, are all easy to forgive.  Those minor occurrences are usually over before the sentence, “please forgive me” is fully expressed.  However, what about the big things?  What about the deep pain that takes years to put behind you?  What about those issues you were sure you had let go, and then suddenly, unexpectedly, they reemerge like a choking weed?  When is the forgiveness done?

Even before I began to write this, I knew the answer — it’s never done.  Not even 700 times seven is enough for some things.  I suppose my true struggle is in not wanting to believe it.

Double-Dottie Selfie! July 12, 2014

Double-Dottie Selfie!
July 12, 2014

In recent months, I have been busy with the task of moving my elderly Godmother, Aunt Dottie, to a senior home.  Thankfully, this was her decision and she was, and is, quite happy about it.  However, her joy about the move did not lessen the amount of work involved.  I spent many days (and nights!), acquiring information, filling out applications, cancelling services, and, finally, cleaning out her apartment.

My aunt is a saver.   As a result, I luckily uncovered a few family treasures such as  things which had belonged to my grandparents, old photos which more clearly explained my genetic make up, and many little trinkets special only to me due to the fact that my aunt and I shared many of the same interests.  For a few other things, though, I was not so grateful for my aunt’s propensity for “collecting.”

As I sorted through years of my aunt’s paraphernalia, I inevitably came upon items which triggered unpleasant memories and, in some cases, opened old wounds.  Much of the time I was alone, overtired, hungry and frustrated, which meant I was not in good form to put those memories in a healthy perspective.  The human brain has a remarkable ability to play all the long ago, personal “movie trailers”  which, in turn, activate physical responses as if painful events were not just a memory, but a maddening present-day occurrence.  Anger and resentment welled up.  Later, when I was rested, fed and thinking more clearly, I found myself, once again, praying to forgive those who inflicted past hurts, and praying for forgiveness for how I’ve hurt others.  One more time, I put those events behind me and chose to move forward in a healthy way.

Deep in the midst of cleaning and clearing out, I found some envelopes containing my

One of the treasures I found was this embroidery I made for my Aunt and Uncle when I was a teenager!  I hope I've (mostly) lived up to the words I stitched.

One of the treasures I found was this embroidery I made for my Aunt and Uncle when I was a teenager! I hope I’ve (mostly) lived up to the words I stitched.

uncle’s poetry.  I knew he wrote poetry as he would often read his latest work to me when I visited.  He died eleven years ago, and until I came across his poems, I hadn’t thought about them in a very long time.  With the looming “must vacate” deadline before me and time running short, I tossed my uncle’s masterpieces to the top of the ever-mounting “save” pile with thoughts of one day organizing them neatly in a notebook for my aunt.

When I returned to my home and was sorting through my newly acquired treasures, I opened the packet of poems.  For quite a while, I sat on the floor, legs folded, immersed in my uncle’s talent and his unique writing style.  I laughed out loud at his quirky sense of humor, and  I shed tears as he so eloquently expressed sensitivity toward human perils.  I thought to myself, I must do more than just stick these in a binder.

Just when I felt I must get up lest my legs not unfold, I decided to read one more poem. In those first few days home from emptying Aunt Dottie’s apartment, with raw emotions and forgiveness prayers still being formulated, I sat next to the “save” pile and read this:

“A Mother’s Love”
 
They both looked at each other.
They seemed to be worlds apart.
They both were heavy laden.
They both had a broken heart.
 
One of the ladies broke into tears,
With sobs that shook her so.
And then she clasped her heart,
As she rocked back to and fro.
 
“I gave birth to a traitor,”
She cried out in pain.
“He should have died at birth,
Then I wouldn’t face this shame.”
 
The other woman took her hand,
Gently she dried her tears.
“Don’t blame yourself” she said, “Let’s talk,
Let’s try to solve your problems, your fears.
 
God is ever merciful,
Forgiveness is His name.
I am sure He will never
Let you be put to shame.
 
You must trust His wisdom,
His love for humanity.
You must trust His judgment.
You must trust his charity.”
 
“Do you think he will forgive
My son for what he’s done?”
“God forgives the repentant,
That’s how Heaven is won.”
 
She then stopped her crying,
Thanked the lady by her side,
Clasped her very tightly,
As they continued on their ride.
 
They came to their destination,
talking softly to each other,
Mary the mother of Jesus,
holding the hand of Judas’ mother.
 
By Frank Almeida
June 1, 1983
 

 I pray you always find your way to forgiveness.

I found this presentation on forgiveness very helpful:

f://marshill.com/2010/09/27/10-things-forgiveness-is-not

 

 

 

 

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M-O-M turned upside down is W-O-W!

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” — Matthew 11:28

MOMBeing a mother and raising a child is an awe-inspiring, 20-year adventure.  No other commitment in life requires more enduring patience, understanding, compassion, intelligence, physical strength and mental sharpness.  No other job has such major expectations — to guide and protect an innocent ,

My Mom looking lovingly at me when I was about two years old.

My Mom looking lovingly at me when I was about two years old.

tiny baby through his growth to mature and responsible adulthood.  For all of this and more, we cannot thank mothers enough.

A few years back, in an effort to “give rest” to mothers of my community, I began a group called WOW.  We met once a week for faith sharing, prayer, crafts and snacks.  For a little extra assurance of a peace-filled hour, babysitting was provided!  I recently came upon the brochure I had written to publicize WOW.  I wrote my own, modern-day version of Proverbs 31.  As Mother’s Day is just a few days away, it seems like a good time to share it with you.

First, here’s Proverbs 31:

When one finds a worthy wife, her value is far beyond pearls.Butterfly
Her husband, entrusting his heart to her has an unfailing prize.
She obtains wool and flax and makes cloth with skillful hands.
Like merchant ships, she secures her provisions from a far.
She rises while it is still night and distributes food to her household.
She picks out a field to purchase, out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She is girt about with strength, and sturdy are her arms.
She reaches out her hands to the poor, and extends her arms to the needy.
She opens her mouth in wisdom, and on her tongue is kindly counsel.
She watches the conduct of her household, and eats not her food in idleness.
Her children rise up and praise her; her husband, too extols her.
She enjoys the success of her dealing; at night her lamp is undimmed.
She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs at the days to come.
 

My Modern Version:

Child's art work made into a quilt.

Child’s art work made into a quilt.

A loving wife and mother is a precious commodity.
Her husband kisses her goodbye
and then heads off to his job.
She clips coupons and searches for sales to feed and cloth her family.
She is up before the sun finishing her son’s costume for the school play and frosting the cupcakes for her daughter’s birthday party.
She works a few hours a week
to earn money to save for
the children’s college fund.
Her arms and back are strong from carrying a bag of groceries in one arm
and 25-pound toddler in the other.
She volunteers at the school, the church
and the soup kitchen.
She guides her children as they learn and grow in life.
She never has a moment to sit idle as there are so many who count on her.
Her husband and children love her,
but they may not be fully aware of all her efforts.
She teaches by example and she knows the fruits of her labors
may not be realized for many years to come.
She smiles as she contemplates the future of “empty nest” and her well-adjusted,
grown children.
Me and My Girls in 2004

Me and My Girls in 2004

 Happy Mother’s Day!

 
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Midwinter Blues . . .

. . . and greens, pinks, yellows, teals, grays, violets, burgundies . . . . and so many more!

“You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky; why do you not know how to interpret the present time?” –Luke 12:56

SnowflakeLiving in New England, it’s rare to get through the day without discussing the weather, especially this time of year.  We are amazed at the “unusual” frigid temperatures or overcome with stress due to the abundance of snow.  Sometimes we are taken back by a “freak” warm spell or very worried about the lack of precipitation.   Perhaps we are given these radical weather changes just to help initiate conversation up here in the great Northeast.

I often get strange looks when I confess my love for the winter months.  I don’t particularly care for getting out and dealing with the snow and the cold, but I enjoy looking at it.  I especially enjoy gazing at the beautiful scenes performed outside my studio window.  How beautiful to see the deep red cardinals fluttering around

Glorious Sunrise

Glorious Sunrise

the bird feeder with a crisp, white backdrop of snow covered bushes.  Seeing the sun peer through snow-covered trees in the early hours of the day, takes my breath away.  Even when snow is absent, there’s a beauty in the earth that surrounds me.  I see it as a stillness and a sort of waiting period.  As we quiet our minds and limit our indulgences during the Lenten weeks, the Earth has a time of clearing the way for beautiful changes coming soon, or so it seems to me.

My Winter Colors

My Winter Colors

The best part of winter has to do with the opportunity to more fully embrace God’s gifts to me.  I love to quilt and write all year, but during the winter months, I feel a little more freedom to completely immerse myself in projects.  There are fewer distractions calling me out.  During the spring and summer months, more than once someone will question how I can possibly sew on a beautiful day, as if it’s a sacrilege to do so.  I usually respond by saying, I am able sew on a nice day just as a nurse goes to her job in the hospital or just as a lawyer goes to the office.  Sewing is what I am called to do!  In the midst of ten-degree temperatures, no one ever questions why I’m staying indoors to sew.

I did a little research this morning on “Overcoming the Winter Blues.”  All of the articles I read had similar advice:  get plenty of exercise, eat balanced meals, take a multivitamin,

Winter is a good time to nap!

Winter is a good time to nap!

and expose yourself to more light.  While this is all sound advice, I would like to add, use your God-given gifts abundantly and be a little creative every day.  Get out some crayons, paint a picture, start a scrapbook, write a letter, dust off that old guitar, read poetry, bake a cake, or do anything that moves your spirit in a positive way.  You will be amazed at how good you feel after just a few minutes of creativity.

There have been numerous studies about how creative activities improve your health and your mood.  Psychologist Robert Maurer, who has studied the benefits of crafting, says cheering up and chilling out are only the beginning. “Crafting can decrease your heart rate and blood pressure and even improve sleep.  Your breathing takes on a regular pattern, which shuts down the body’s anxiety-producing fight-or-flight response.”  [from This is Your Brain on Crafts, Martha Stewart Living magazine, October 2012].

In the same article, Dr. Maurer explains the further benefits of giving “your creation to

Let God's light shine through you!

Let God’s light shine through you!

others” or doing for others.  Scientifically speaking, doing for others releases “happiness-producing” hormones.  I believe this because I have experienced it.  It makes perfect sense to know God would want us to truly feel good as a reward for helping others.

There have been a number of reports, as well, on the affects on our health due to less day light during the winter months.  I realize for some this can be a serious problem.  For most of us, though, it’s mostly an inconvenience which does affect our mood.  It’s dark when we go to work and then dark when we

I'm so tired of the dark.

I’m so tired of the dark.

come home.  Our energy level is lower because the sunlight has magical energy boosting powers.  It simply feels good to be surrounded by sunlight.  When we feel good, we do good.  When we are mostly in the dark, it is more difficult to muster up the energy for anything beyond the must-do daily tasks.

Why not look for the true light during these cold days?  God calls us to shine His light through our good works.  Go out and

Is that Spring coming?

Is that Spring coming?

be a beacon to someone who has a difficult time in the winter.  Give him or her a handmade gift!  Do it today – – – in the present!

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