Sacred, Pregnant Waiting

Originally published on the Emerging Voices blog, 12/8/2014. 

Advent. This time of year has always been somewhat sacred to me.

Despite the fact that I live in Minnesota, and I hate winter.

Despite the fact that Christmas in the United States is pretty much just a celebration of consumerism.

Despite the fact that I haven’t identified with Christianity for quite some time.

I think it’s the mystery of it all. The unknown, the waiting for something that hasn’t yet happened but is so palpable you can nearly taste it. This year, it is especially palpable for me as I have my own bundle of heartburn and kidney punches joy on his or her way.

It’s also especially palpable because there is so much unknown to hope for.

Even though I am no longer Christian, I still have a deep respect for the liturgical calendar. I get so frustrated when people celebrate Christmas early, especially when pastors preach Christmas messages before Christmas. This is a time of sacred waiting, and we could all learn a little something from that.

In the wake of the deaths of Mike Brown and Eric Garner–and the countless others who have been murdered simply for daring to go out in public with dark skin–we have a lot to hope for.

We also have no promise that what we hope for will come to fruition.

Prior to becoming pregnant, I always thought of pregnancy, especially the last few weeks before delivery (the stage at which Jesus would, in theory, be during Advent), as a time of great excitement, hope, and joy. Now that I am pregnant, though only 19 weeks, I have found that there’s a lot less joy and a lot more paralyzing fear about all the things that could go wrong. There are no promises in pregnancy. Doctors can test for a million different abnormalities, and while normal results are reassuring, even waiting for those results is terrifying–let alone the fear one might experience with an abnormal result. Assuming the baby makes it to full term, and even though the likelihood of something going seriously, irreparably wrong during birth is very low in the Western world, there are still no guarantees about that child’s health or life in general.

And this is in 2014. Imagine what it must have been like for Mary, carrying what she believed to be some especially precious cargo.

As I sit and hope for a healthy baby, I can’t help but apply the same thought to our society’s construction of race. We have so much to hope for, but there are no guarantees. These tragedies, while absolutely awful in a way that I could never understand, could be the spark that starts a whole new revolution on how we approach race in the United States. And yes, there is a lot we can do as a whole, but individually, it feels like there’s a whole lot of waiting for something to happen, something we can almost taste, but have no certainty of. I’ve asked the question, “What the hell am I supposed to do?” so many times in the last few weeks. I know I need to be working towards change but there is little direction.

We can still hope. We can hope that change is coming, and we can do all we can to prepare for it, to usher it into existence. But will it happen? Will my child find him- or herself asking these same questions in twenty or thirty years? Will this be the revolution we’ve been waiting for throughout all of history?

I guess we’ll just wait and see.

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Sustainable Christmas Project 2: Ruffled Flower T-Shirt Pillow

Hello again! It’s time for the second installment in the sustainable Christmas series. In doing this, I am deviating from the standard topics of this blog to give you a few tutorials on Christmas presents and other accouterments you can make yourself (instead of purchasing them at Target). This project is a ruffled flower t-shirt pillow that is stupid easy and very cheap. Originally found here.

I’m giving this to my sister (-in-law), who is 16 and loves bright colors. It’s a great gift for a teenage girl–especially those ones you might not know very well but are obligated to give something to–but could easily be classed up by using lightweight wool felt and more adult colors.

My apologies in advance for the horrible pictures. I actually made this about a month ago, and did not document it, so I had to Paintbrush it up.

MATERIALS:

  • Two t-shirts of matching or coordinating color (protip: Goodwill has a contract with Target, so often you can find multiples of the same article of clothing at one Goodwill store. Not only are the shirts cheaper, but the money you spend on them goes to Goodwill and the good work it does instead of to Target)
  • One sheet crafting felt in an inconspicuous color (you can find these in the kids’ crafting section at most craft stores)
  • Coordinating thread
  • 12-inch Pillow form, or polyester stuffing

TOOLS:

  • Shears
  • Ruler
  • Pen
  • Hot glue gun
  • Sewing machine (or handsewing supplies)
  • Handsewing needle
  • Circular objects (for tracing) of roughly 2 and 3 inches in diameter

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Take one of the two shirts and lay it flat on a table or other hard surface. Cut off the hem on the bottom. Measure 14 inches (for a 12-inch pillow) up from the bottom edge and cut straight across. Don’t worry if the shirt itself is wider than 14 inches–as long as it is at least this wide, it doesn’t matter. Set this aside.

     

  2. Take the other shirt and cut off the bottom hem, same as the previous shirt. Mark out lines in increments of 1.5 inches up from the bottom edge. Cut along these lines to make six strips. Cut each strip along the side seams to make twelve strips.

  3. Round the corners of each strip. Then, baste (like in the last project) down the middle. Tie off one end and gather the strip until it is about half of its original length.Tie off the other end. Fold the strips in half along the stitching. Set these aside.

     

  4. Trace out four 3-inch and three 2-inch diameter circles on your sheet of felt. Cut these out.

     

  5. This is where it gets a little difficult to explain in words. With your strips readily accessible, put a glob of hot glue in the middle of these circles (do one at a time). Roll up half an inch or so of one strip and place this on the glue. Keep adding glue and strip in a spiral out toward the edge of the felt circle.Your 3-inch circles will get two strips, and the 2-inch circles will get one. Trim the felt as close to the glue lines as possible. Set these aside. You will end up using eleven strips to make four 2-strip flowers and three 1-strip flowers. If you want, you could make an additional 1-strip flower.

  6. Go back to the square you cut from the first t-shirt. Because your shirt will likely not have perfectly straight sides, you may have to even these out. Cut (or stitch up the sides) so that it measures 14×14 inches. Stitch along three sides and an inch or so into each end of the fourth side, leaving the rest open for stuffing.Clip the corners down and turn right side out.
  7. Insert your pillow form or stuffing into the pillow. Folding the raw edges under, handstitch up the last side with a simple running stitch. 

     

  8. Take the flowers you made earlier and arrange them on the pillow. Hot glue these in place, making sure to secure them well.

     

  9. Admire your handiwork. You’re awesome. Give yourself a high five just for the hell of it.

Altogether, this cost me less than $3–I found two matching shirts at Goodwill for $.99 each, and the felt was on sale for $.25/sheet but is usually $.35 or so. I think I had the pillow form, but these are not expensive and you can find them in almost any craft store. If you choose to go the stuffing route, a bag of fiberfill will run you $6 or so. Easy, cheap, and sustainable!

If you aren’t super crafty, you can find some great pillows similar to this one here.

Happy crafting!

-Denika

A Sustainable Christmas

Dear friends,

That time of year is approaching. Carols (and hams) abound as we rejoice over our Savior’s birth (three months early). The air is thick with peace, love, and joy, as we all remember what’s really important.

Buying shit.

Oh wait.

That doesn’t seem quite right.

I’m sure many of you have heard of plenty of alternatives to this kind of capitalistic, materialistic madness. I particularly like Advent Conspiracy. If you’re not big on gifts, this (and other such organizations) is a great way to turn Christmas around.

But me? I kinda like getting gifts. Maybe I’m selfish. Maybe I don’t have the right frame of mind. Maybe I just need a little more reverence. But there are so few times during the year (basically two) where I can justify asking for things that aren’t immediate needs. Where I feel okay tearing into brand-new books and CDs and wearing clothing I don’t necessarily need but kinda do and would really like to have.

If you’re like me, things like Advent Conspiracy can make you feel like a jerk for still wanting things, for not being happy having your entire Christmas gift given to people who need it a lot more than you do. But take heart! There is still hope for us yet.

This year, my husband and I are trying something new. We’re doing a sustainable Christmas.

What’s that, you say? It’s this lovely idea we had that, instead of going out on Black Friday and putting our money into the hands to mega-corporations who have little concern for workers’ rights or environmental justice, we’re going to only give sustainable gifts. That means we’re getting our books, DVDs, and CDs from local used bookstores. We’re buying our clothing and home goods from thrift stores that benefit local charities. We’re handcrafting many of our other gifts, from decorative pillows to maple toffee syrup. We’re trying to use our money to benefit our community and to give gifts that can’t be bought at any given Target.

And we’d love it if you would join us.

You can…

  • Check local thrift stores, boutiques, booksellers, and the like for specific items.
  • Visit craft and artisan fairs for unique gifts whose proceeds go directly to the people who made them.
  • Utilize websites like craftgawker for ideas for making your own gifts.
  • Take a look at all the marvelous shops on Etsy, if you’re not of the crafting persuasion.
  • Consider giving baked or canned goods–this one usually saves you a good deal of money, as well as being quite tasty.
  • Participate in Small Business Saturday.

…and do anything else that supports your community, artisans, and small business owners. Make sure your money lands somewhere better than in some mega-corporation’s CEO’s bank account.

To give you a hand in this, I’ll be deviating from the normal topic of this blog for the next six weeks to give you a how-to on many of the gifts I’m making this year. Additionally, I’ll provide links to places where you can buy similar items if you don’t have the time or ability to make them. I’d love your additions, too–if you’re creating anything this holiday season, whether gifts, decor, foodstuffs, or anything else, drop me a line and I’d be happy to feature it in this series.

Merry (sustainable) Christmas!

-Denika