Saturday, December 29, 2012

Earthen Vessels

          2 Corinthians 4:7

Oh, we have this glorious treasure
      In a vessel made of clay,
Which has many imperfections,
      That we cannot wipe away.

But we don’t despise the vessel,
      Though it’s marred with many a scratch,
For the treasure that is in it
      We can’t duplicate or match.

God commanded light from darkness
      And has shined it in our hearts,
Having chosen earthen vessels
      For the glory He imparts.

They may seem like poor containers
      For the faith esteemed as gold,
But their value should be measured
      By the precious things they hold.

July 27, 2012

The earthen vessels are little dots in this picture of a very small portion of  the earth.
~ Dinosaur National Monument, Utah

Monday, December 24, 2012

Double Knitting

   One of the things that I normally like about knitting is that I can visit, meditate, and even pray while doing it. Sometimes, however, for good mental health a project that requires more concentration is what "the doctor" orders.

Thanks to Elizabeth Evans of Ravelry for my first double knitting project.

   Double knitting is when you knit two sides of a double thick project at once, using two different colors of yarn. Following a color chart for this is an excellent brain exercise, as your background color and the color of your motif keep switching back and forth. When you knit on one side, the cup is purple, when you work your way back, the cup is black. Besides that, every time you work one color, you also work the other, and there are stitches in both colors on your needle at the same time, even when you are in the midst of a solid block of color.

How does it work?

   You cast on with both colors at once, making two loops (one of each color) for every stitch cast on. Then you knit each stitch separately, knitting one color then purling the second. The knits become the front of one side of your project, and the purls are the back of the other side. The directions say, "As with any double-knitting project, be sure you’re bringing both yarns to the front and back as you knit one side and purl the other." What this means is that when you knit, both yarns are behind your work, and when you purl both yarns are in front. This seems counter-intuitive at first, but as your work progresses, you can see that the yarns actually end up in the middle between the two layers of fabric that are developing.

   Notice in the pictures that you actually have twice as many stitches on your needle as on the face of your project. The extra stitches are making a mirror image on the reverse side.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Silly Hat

The Magic Owl Hat from Creative Knitting magazine (September 2012), using left over pieces of wool-ease.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Wrestling Jacob

      Left Alone
         Wrestling Jacob
            Genesis 32:24-31

Left alone as night draws on,
Left alone — but not to sleep —
All my earthly comforts gone,
Left a lonesome watch to keep.

Left alone to think my thoughts,
Feel my heartbeat, weigh my fears,
Reconsider schemes and plots
I’ve accomplished o’er the years.

Left alone where mem’ry haunts —
Voices echo through the hills,
Calling back and forth their taunts,
Recollecting former ills.

Where are now God’s promises?
Where’s the ladder to the sky?
Where’s the hope that God will bless
Such a wretched man as I?

Left alone — but not alone —
An intruder comes to fight,
Challenging what strength I own,
Wrestling with me through the night.

He who knows my failing frame
Wrestled till the break of day,
Touched my thigh and asked my name —
His He doesn’t need to say.

Left alone — oh blessed place!
Though by doubts and fears assailed,
God and I met face to face;
Met and fought till faith prevailed.

Now a prince with God and men,
Humbled, thankful, bold am I,
As the sun comes up again,
Halting on my wounded thigh.

Nita Brainard
December 11, 2012

Rainbow Park, Utah

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Give and Take

True friendship involves give and take.

But what is giving and what is taking? 

Between friends giving is taking and taking is giving

I take a chunk of your time to give you a part of myself.

When you take a chunk of my time, you give me your confidence.

You take my confidence when you give me your secret, and you give me your trust when you ask me to give you something.

When you give me your ear, you are taking my heart. And when I give you a listening ear, I am taking in who you are. 

Unless you take my love, you don't truly give me yours.

If you don't take anything from me, you may give me charity or sympathy ~ but not friendship.

  Whole Hearted Home

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Little Tale from Harmony

by Harmony Conjurske

I told a little tale
About a certain one,
Yet really not the same,
To make it sound more fun.

I didn't realize 
I said what wasn't true,
And little did I know 
Of what my words might do.

My friend, she told it too,
A bit more talented,
Not careful to repeat
The words that I had said.

And then my friends told friends,
Each one in their own way.
The story quickly changed,
As told from day to day.

To change a thought or phrase,
Or add another word --
They didn't think to say
Exactly what they heard.

And then I heard it too,
As it came back to me.
Yet nothing now the same,
And, oh, so differently!

I listened with great shame,
As my friends were very bold.
There was no truth at all
In the story I once told.

Wholehearted Home Wednesdays

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Dark and a Bright Side

   In my previous reading of Cowper's letters, I seem to have overlooked this interesting quotation:

   "Every scene of life has two sides, a dark and a bright one; and the mind that has an equal mixture of melancholy and vivacity is best of all qualified for the contemplation of either: it can be lively without levity, and pensive without dejection."

~ William Cowper, in a letter to Mr. Unwin
 concerning Cowper's neighbor, William Bull


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

One Who Never Changes

The often changing circumstances of life and death force us to turn from the gifts to the Giver. His gifts change, but He never does.

No Shadow of Turning

Each person has his sorrows
    And knows his heart’s own grief,
But sometimes in a fellow
    We gain a slight relief.
We find a kindred spirit,
    And don’t feel quite alone,
And thank the One great Giver
    Whose love thereby is shown.

But life is always changing,
    And comforts rarely last.
They come and stay a season
    That all too soon is past.
And every earthly friendship,
    The deepest and most blessed,
So fraught with human weakness,
    Is temporal at best.

But God is always constant.
    He doesn’t turn or shift.
In Him there is no shadow,
    Though changed may be His gift.
In all the varied seasons
    He sends us from above,
His faithfulness won’t waver
    And we can trust His love.

Nita Brainard                                                                     

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Reasons for Divorce

   I recently read a lovely article about improving your marriage. It was full of many good suggestions. But it also made the amazing statement that many divorces among Christians are caused by poor communication.

   Don't believe it!

   Divorce is caused by disobedience. No other reason. Poor communication may be the excuse for the disobedience, but it is only an excuse.

   You don't have to be a good communicator to stay married.
   Your husband doesn't have to be a good communicator.
   You can both have lousy communication.
   * You can be unfulfilled and be in dire need of some education on how to improve your marriage in all sorts of ways.
   You can be downright miserable ~ and still not get a divorce.

   I'm not suggesting that you settle for a miserable marriage. Do everything you can to make it a healthy and happy one, including taking wise advice on being a good listener and communicator. But never take your focus away from what is right.

   It is not poor communications that causes divorce, but the willingness to consider divorce that keeps couples in habits of poor communication. If Christians were serious about obeying the word of God, they wouldn't consider divorce under any but the most shameful circumstances. Knowing that they are stuck with their non-communicative spouse, they would learn to deal with it.

     If your perspective is to avoid divorce by improving communication, you have already lost your way. You have made your marriage contingent on happiness rather than holiness. Good communication certainly improves the happiness of your marriage and makes it more pleasing to stay married, but the holiness of God and obedience to his word requires you to stay married whether you are happy or not.

   It wasn't good communication that kept Martha Hall from divorce.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Chicken Chili Saga

   Lee asked for Chili. He didn't get chili. But I tried to oblige him. We were expecting last minute company, a family of 9 or 10 or 50 or something. I suggested chicken soup, but Lee wanted chili.

So, I take inventory. No hamburger. No kidney beans. Hmm. I live over 10 miles from the nearest grocery store, and it closes at 6. I'm half again farther from the one that closes at 9. Needless to say, I'm not in the habit of running to the store when I don't have an item.

So, I decided to make chicken chili. In my book, chicken chili has white beans and a creamy sauce. But Lee can't have dairy, so we improvise some more, and come up with a fairly thick chicken and bean dish that I called Chicken Chili.

It's a typical Nita-type meal, with a little of this and little of that, except that I am a bit more careful than usual, since I do plan to serve it to company. 

But the company didn't come. 

So, I have a huge pot of chicken bean soup, and we aren't even going to be home to eat it. 

So, I take it with me to the mini conference at the neighbor's. I hear the dish was well-liked. And dear Lee, who insists it is NOT chili, also insists that it is GOOD (without once reproaching me for not using a recipe!) But it didn't all get eaten.

So, I brought it home and put the left-overs in the freezer. 

Less than a week later, the meal I had planned to take to an elderly couple flopped. I'm looking in the freezer  for ideas, and the chicken stuff pops out at me. It'll do in a pinch. Off I go with my chicken-not-chili-soup. 

And, what do you know? My dear friend LOVES it ~ and asks for the recipe. 

Now mind you, this is a friend who can't cook any more. She doesn't know she can't cook, and I can't tell her she can't have the recipe. I also can't tell her to throw in a little of this and a little of that. 

So, I rack my brain, and I think, I think I remember. No amounts for salt and pepper, but the rest should be pretty close:

1 lb navy beans, cooked til soft, and drained
chicken legs and thighs, about 3 lbs
2 15 oz cans diced tomatoes with green chilies
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
chopped onions
2 cloves garlic
chili powder 

Gently boil chicken. Remove meat from bones and cut into pieces. Add chicken and a little bit of the broth to cooked beans. Stir in undrained tomatoes, tomato sauce, salt, pepper, garlic, and onion. Add 1-3 tsp chili powder, if desired. 

It's all eaten now. No picture.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Garter Stitch Appliqué Flower

As an extra touch to my Rambling Rows Afghan,
 I added this simple garter stitch flower.

Worsted weight yarn, size 8 needles.
Each petal measures 2 1/8” across at the widest points. Each leaf measures 1 ½”.

Flower is made up of five petals and a flower center, each sewn separately to a knitted base.

Flower Center:
CO 15. Knit 2 rows garter stitch. Pull all stitches over the first stitch on needle. Pull yarn through this stitch and cut. The stitches will form a circle with a pie shaped piece missing. Use your tail to sew up the gap and make a complete circle.

Make 5
The basic pattern is to knit the front stitches, making a Center Decrease on 3 center stitches; and to knit all stitches on the backside except the center stitch, which is purled. There is an increase in row 2.
CO 13
Rows 1 & 3: K5, CD over 3 stitches (Slip 2 as to knit, K1, PSSO) K5
Row 2: K1 M1, K4, P1, K4, M1, K1
Row 4: K5 P1 K5
Row 5: K4, CD3, K4
Row 6: K4, P1, K4
Row 7: K3, CD3, K3
Row 8: K3, P1, K3
Row 9: K2, CD3, K2
Row 10: K2, P1, K2
Row 11: K1 CD3, K1
Row 12: P3 tog
Pull yarn through remaining stitch.

Make 2 or 3
CO 9
Rows 1 & 3: K3, CD3, K3
Row 2: K1, M1, K2, P1, K2, M1, K1
Row 4: K3, P1, K3
Row 5: K2, CD3, K2
Row 6: K2, P1, K2
Row 7: K1, CD3, K1
Row 8: P3 tog
Pull yarn through remaining stitch.

Arrange 5 petals in a circle with final tail pointing out and cast on tail pointing to the side. Sew to base. Place flower center on top of the inner points of the petals and sew down. Sew leaves wherever desired in the vicinity of the flower.

Variation: Make another set of 5 smaller petals from the leaf pattern and sewn them over the seams between the larger petals. These may be from a contrasting color.

Get the pattern for the afghan here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


   There's a huge difference between enduring wrong and doing wrong. Yes, wrong is wrong, but if someone wrongs me, I have done no wrong. Even if they habitually mistreat me, it isn't wrong for me to submit to it.*  If I die to myself daily, as the Scriptures tell me I must,+ I may submit to it joyfully, knowing my Father in heaven will reward me.^

   But doing wrong is another matter. It is never right to do wrong.

   It's not wrong to be wronged. It is wrong to do wrong. This sounds like a simplistic statement, but how often we are tempted to think otherwise! The world, the flesh, and the devil will all tell us it is wrong to be wronged, and that it is right to do wrong when it pleases someone we care about. Beware of this lie, and gird your loins with truth. Eph. 6:14

*1 Peter 2:20
+Luke 9:23
^1 Peter 4:19

Linked to:
Wholehearted Home

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Rambling Rows Afghan

  If you like garter stitch, enjoy picking up stitches, and don't mind counting, the Rambling Rows Afghan is the afghan for you! I made one on request, and I'm pleased with the end product, despite my prejudice against garter stitch.

The afghan is on display at the Beehive in Spencer, Iowa. The Beehive is on Facebook.
The pattern is from Cottage Creations of Carpenter, Iowa.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Shield of Faith

   The shield of faith really works. It really quenches the fiery darts of the devil.  The faith that shields from the devil's attacks is not some superficial, mushy-gushy, feel-good stuff that a fiery dart can shoot right through. It is a deeply-rooted belief that God is good and cares for me, even when life doesn't feel as good as I wish it would. Confidence in God gives us the strength to go on when the devil is tempting us to look at our circumstances and break down in discouragement.

   But we have to take that shield of faith and point it at those attacks. So often we women tend to blame ourselves when we are under attack. Instead of facing our disappointments and frustrations, and saying, "God still loves me," we reproach ourselves and say, "I shouldn't care about that." We aren't using our shields. Instead, we are opening ourselves up to the attacks of the devil.

   Very likely you shouldn't feel the way you do. Maybe you shouldn't expect so much out of your husband or your children, and you shouldn't be so easily disappointed or discouraged. But the fact is you do feel that way.
Face it.
   You aren't going to change your feelings or your attitude by saying, "Oh, I shouldn't . . . ." You'll only deepen your discouragement and weaken your ability to do better.

  If you have things to repent of, do it. Then look your disappointment in the face and cast it upon Him who cares for you. With your shield of faith in front of you, you can press forward in confidence that God is good and that He really does care about you and about the things that matter to you. No circumstances, no matter how trying, and no disappointment, no matter how painful, can drag you into lethargy and despair.

*Is my health failing?                                                            God still cares
*Am I misunderstood or neglected?                               God still cares.
*Have my dreams failed to be realized?                        God still cares.

Here is a favorite lesser known hymn that expresses that faith. 
The words are ascribed to anonymous in my hymn book. credits Marian Longfellow. 
The music I know for it is by D. B. Towner.

  He Knows It All!

He knows the bitter, weary way,
The endless striving day by day,
The souls that weep, the souls that pray ~
        He knows it all!

He knows how hard the fight has been,
The clouds that come our lives between,
The wounds the world has never seen ~
        He knows it all!

He knows when faint and worn we sink,
How deep the pain, how nearthe brink
Of dark despair we pause and shrink~
        He knows it all!

He knows ~ oh, thought so full of bliss!
For though on earth our joys we miss,
We still can bear it, feeling this ~
        He knows it all!

        He knows it all,
        He knows it all,
    The bitter weary way ~
        He knows it all.

WholeH Home

Monday, September 10, 2012

Three Sweaters

Time to knit Grandma sweaters.

The first is for  5-year-old Ivan.

It is made from That Metzbower Girl Designs' Hallows Cardigan.

For three-year-old Ursula I modified a sweater from Petite Purls:

And for one-and-a-half-year-old Carl, I started with a Cottage Creations pattern, made a few changes, and added a kangaroo.

The Kangaroo comes from ErssieKnits.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

School Desk

   I found this school desk in one of the sheds.

  It's an old desk, and I don't mind if it looks old, but in order to bring it into my relatively clean house with new carpet and all that, a good scrubbing was necessary and a coat of paint advisable. I intended to do only minimal sanding, but minimal turned out to be considerably more than I had anticipated.  When I applied some stain, the random nicks turned into legible graffiti. So, I sanded again, and the more I sanded, the more graffiti I found! But never fear, the desk still looks old.

   I couldn't help but think of the Christian life as I sanded. It seems the more work the Holy Spirit does in our lives, the more weaknesses are revealed. The surface dirt hides the real problems, and as that is removed, we see the deeper cuts and scratches. Then, when a coat of finish is put on, and most of the surface looks clean and shiny, the deep, dark cracks that we hadn't seen before stand out in bold relief. When I sanded those out, it created splotches in the surface. The places that had been marred by scratches were now even smoother and lighter than the places that hadn't needed as much work. And so it is. Not perfect, but useful and not unattractive.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Christ Alone

For I determined not to know any  thing among you,
   save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 1Cor. 2:2
Christ alone provides an answer
      To the ills that plague our race.
Nothing frees and nothing cures us,
      But the cleansing work of grace. 

We may educate the masses;
      Tell them where the dangers lurk,
But to stem the tide of evil
      All our teaching doesn’t work.

We may think we’re doing something
      When we advertise our cause,
But the end of all our labor
      Wins us only man’s applause.

Yes, the world itself applauds us,
      When we stand against the worst
Of the sins its prince has fathered
      And society has nursed.

If we want to make a difference
      That will last eternally,
We must follow Christ our Savior
      To His death on Calvary.

We won’t win the world’s approval.
      We will seem to them as fools,
For we must refuse their methods,
      Living by the Bible’s rules.

We weren’t given a commission
      To attempt to clean the mess
That lies cluttered on the surface
      Of a core of wickedness.

For the Lord Himself is coming
      And will judge the world with fire —
But to turn men first and save them 
      Is His burning heart’s desire.

Nita Brainard
August 2012

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Wrapping

  You saw the afghan. You saw the poem I wrote for the card. Now you get to see the wrapping. I don't pretend to sophistication, but when it comes to practicality, I have an edge. Paper wrapping is pretty, but it ends up in the trash. And when wrapping something soft like an afghan, it requires a box besides. Why not wrap gifts with something useful?

A simple draw string bag can be used to store the afghan, sheets, or linens for years. I made this one out of the lining from a cast off set of drapes. A more elegant fabric and a better seamstress could make something much classier and still very useful.

For the present I didn't draw the string, but folded and pinned it.

I added some yarn and a felt flower. When I have one available, a reusable brooch is nice for adorning this type of package.

                                          Even if it wrinkles, it won't tear!

No losing the card to this gift! The envelope is pinned on under the flower.

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Wedding Poem

Composed for use in wedding cards. Feel free to adapt it for your own use.

From this day we walk together;
   We have made a solemn pact.
Be it sweet or stormy weather,
   It’s a step we can’t retract.

You’re the one that I am choosing;
   We will share life’s changing ways;
Every other love refusing,
   Through the journey of our days.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Starting with a Purl Row

   My instructions for bags knitted in the round usually begin with this line: Starting with a purl row . . . There is a reason for this. When you use the long tail cast on (the only pleasant cast on), the stitches in the first row you work have a tight twist at the base that resembles a purl stitch. This is often on the front of the work. It makes a neat edge, and it looks very nice as the edge of a ribbing for a sweater. However, when you are working in the round, it is a little more difficult to pick up stitches in this twist. The other side of the cast on stitch has a loose horizontal piece at the base which is easier to see, easier to count, and easier to get your needle into. If you start with a purl row, then when it is time to pick up the stitches around your bottom piece, this handy yarn will be there waiting for you on the knit side of your work.

See the nice diagonal yarn at the bottom of each stitch?

Picking up stitches on this side of the cast on is a breeze.

Only a line of twisted stitches shows
where you cast on and picked up.

After felting you see no indication at all of where the stitches are picked up,
and it is very difficult to tell the front from the back. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

One Square Mile

   Around the block out here on the prairie is a four mile trek. It took me almost a year to venture so far on foot. The varied scenery which extends far beyond a square mile is well worth the walk. My photography skills are nowhere equal to the beauty of it, but here are a few glimpses. This morning I went first west then north, east, south, then west again. The pictures are in order, but I didn't always point the camera the direction I was walking.

Starting down the driveway, going north:

Looking behind me at the sunrise:

Hoff Lutheran in Heimdal, a little town just to my north.

Almost home.
Our house is nestled in the trees on the left.