“Blessed are Those Who Mourn”

“For the Lamb…will be their shepherd,
    and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” *

Christmastime = joy, festivities, love, gatherings of great people. It also equals the baby Jesus, his captivated parents, and the unusual, fantastical events of that evening: a very pregnant young woman and her fiancé on the road and far from home, an extraordinary star, angels (!) with a message to shepherds that was actually for the entire world.

One angel, the angel of the Lord, went right up to those shepherds and said, “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2). The angel’s glory shone all over those shepherds as he said this. 

Exciting, joyful, miraculous stuff.

But I know there are many for whom an undercurrent of heartache and loss runs through their days this season. People I love very much are right now dealing with cancer, suicide, and death. Ow! It wrenches my gut to see the depth of their hurt.

So maybe this is an appropriate time to introduce this particular blanket—because such a difficult mix of joy and grief is not only true for lots of people this time of year, but was also foretold for Jesus and his young mom, Mary. It happened like this:

Just weeks after his birth, when Mary and Joseph carried their tiny son to the temple, a faithful man named Simeon met Jesus and, after praising God, looked directly at Mary and told her, “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too” (Luke 2).

“A sword will pierce your own soul too”? How difficult this must have been for Mary to hear as she held her tiny, defenseless son. How could she take this in? We know a little: she stored up things in her heart. And she must have lived daily with a tension of joy and sorrow hidden inside.

That tension is what I see in this blanket. The sorrow. The joy. And the comfort.

This is “Blessed are Those Who Mourn,” part of my Beatitude Series.

It didn’t start out that way! This is the blanket I made on video for the master class I’m teaching, and I never intended for it to be about mourning! But at the design stage, as so often happens, the colors, the patterns and the wool itself spoke to me a ton in this particular layout and not in others—and I had to listen.

In this blanket, I see the weight and depth of grief in the dark colors around the edges—but then I feel the palpable relief of those creamy whites, a cocoon of healing and comfort in the center, and joy in those tumultuous, popping pink flowers, all spreading outward.

In its entirety, this beatitude says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Jesus himself said this, when he was just starting out on his itinerant ministry at age 30. Over the next 3 years (just 3!) Jesus would mourn the ugliness of hypocrisy and sin, the betrayal of friends and followers, and his own impending execution.

But in the end? Jesus beats death itself and becomes the One to wipe away the tears of those who turn to him. Wow! We’re so used to hearing this, but just…Wow!

In fact, Jesus becomes ALL the things. He is he sacrificial Lamb, the Shepherd, the Comforter, the King. The Alpha and Omega. All these names are his names.

So. Blessed are you if you mourn and seek comfort. Jesus doesn’t say the pain will leave. But he does say he will wipe away your tears. And he will comfort you. In my experience, as I have trusted this shepherd king, he does exactly that.

Welcome, Lord Jesus, this Christmas. Please don’t let us overlook who you actually are.

*Revelation 7:17

© Joan Olson
“Blessed are Those Who Mourn”
(55×68) Felted Wool Sweaters

Mom’s Blanket

Attention, all you makers…

Do you want to learn to make these blankets too? The Felted Wool Blanket Master Class begins January 12, 2019. Sign up for my email list to be the first to hear when enrollment opens—and receive access to a video from the course about how to choose great sweaters for your project.

I am grateful for amazing travels lately!

In August my hubby and I celebrated 35 years of marriage in England and Wales. In October I was in San Clemente, California, to celebrate my mom’s birthday. And last week we headed west again, to Seattle this time, for an extended-family Thanksgiving and a granddaughter’s baptism.

Packed in that little paragraph are four generations of people and celebrations. So ordinary and yet extraordinary at the same time.

I’ve been thinking about these people whom I love and how we have shared years, influences, loves, skills, preferences, and gifts. Such richness.

In Mom’s living room, there is a blanket I made for her back when I was first figuring these blankets out. For Mom (half of the wonderful parental team who transplanted themselves from the Midwest to the Wild West to start their family), I wrangled up colors that made me imagine a rough-skinned cowboy up on his horse, his hat low to shade his eyes. And a Franciscan padre trading for Mexican textiles to furnish his living quarters in an adobe mission. And heat. Lots and lots of dry, bone-piercing heat.

My parents passed on to me a love for these things. (And my mom taught me to sew. There’s those influences and gifted skills, right there.) I have brought those western US influences into our home in northern Illinois, with a couple of pieces of Mission furniture, a Navajo-woven rug on the wall, and a painting of rugged California mountains above the piano. They ground me still!

Sitting one morning last month under that blanket with my morning cup of coffee in hand and the tissue-thin bougainvillea outside made brilliant by the California sun, I realized I had never taken photos of this pre-blog blanket. I finally captured a few with my phone. (Tricky lighting for me, but you still get the picture.)

The whip-stitched edge works just right for this one. Because that cowboy had a worn laced-leather wallet in his pocket, don’t you think?

© Joan Olson
“Mom’s Blanket”
Felted Wool Sweaters

This blanket has already gone to a good home.

Seven Ways I Deal with Overwhelm Before it Deals with Me (or, “Nobody cares, Grandma!”)

A couple of months ago I sent out a survey to my email list members,
to help in my own brainstorming about what directions to head next.

In response to a question about blog content, one person made a comment
that regularly pricks my thoughts. She said,

“Maybe you could post that you too get overwhelmed
from time to time … if you do. Surely you do?”
 ·······   Yes, I surely do!   ·······

For the past two days I’ve set aside time to write a blog post and an email newsletter. I’ve actually made the time to do it! But then I can’t write. Cannot. I chase ideas around my cluttered brain and find nothing cohesive. I look dumbly at photos I’ve uploaded and sentences I’ve struggled to form.

I recognize this. It is not a case of an elusive muse. No, it’s paralysis. And it is brought on by a sense of overwhelm which cloaks everything I try to do with its dark, slogging weight. It comes when there are too many expectations (usually self-made!), too many idea trails to follow, too many things coming at me at once.

Two powerful triggers of overwhelm for me are 1) travel, and 2) the holidays. And what do you know? They are both presently operative, with all their happy bells on!* I love travel and I love the holidays, but they throw the beloved evenness of my days out the window. Amen, anybody?

Yesterday, after staring at the computer screen blankly for a long time, I finally gave up and cleaned house. (Which is one of the things that has badly needed doing, and people are coming over tomorrow.) A huge perk of house-cleaning is that it lifts my spirits and clears mental space. Maybe that’s the reason I can write today?

As I cleaned I thought about the strategies I use to beat back a sense of overwhelm so it cannot get the best of me. I identified seven. In most cases they boil down to some wise words I learned from a little girl a long time ago…

One Christmastime, when my oldest daughter was six, she stood on a chair at the kitchen counter helping my mom decorate cookies. Her curly, unkempt red hair was pushed back by an ill-fitting plastic tortoiseshell headband which continually slid forward onto her forehead. My mom kept trying to fix it, but my daughter wasn’t having it. With far more wisdom than she could understand, my daughter declared, “Nobody cares, Grandma!”

This line has gone down in our family lore and is still quoted frequently, whether the object of the assertion is a grandmother or not. Watch how it works in the first four of my list of seven. These are things I do when I am feeling overwhelmed:

  1. Lower my expectations for whatever is the task at hand. Although my heart was clamoring for a thorough fall house-cleaning yesterday, I chose a few important particulars. Maybe I’ll get to others before 2019. (“And anyway, nobody cares, Grandma.”)
  2. Drop judgment of myself for my limitations. Yesterday I was grieving the fact that I didn’t pack a shoe box for Operation Christmas Child, let alone make a blanket for it (which is what I really, really wanted to do again). So I let myself feel sad for a bit, then I went to the Samaritan’s Purse site and ordered a shoe box right there. You can still do this too! Deadline is November 19. (“You got a box out! That’s what matters, Grandma!”)
  3. Set low goals for what I can accomplish by Christmas. Handmade gifts may not be done on time or even at all. I preach the following to myself regularly: “Nobody knows what your intentions were but you. Others will likely love whatever you give as a gift. Don’t turn it in to something to fret about. (“Cuz nobody cares, Grandma!”)
  4. Recognize that the feelings of stress are simply a feeling, that no-one else can feel mine (they’re inside only me), and many of the things I think I need to do are cared about by only me. Do I need to cook dinner from scratch tonight? Do I need to dust the blades of that ceiling fan before people arrive? (“Really, nobody cares, Grandma.”)
  5. Flip the switch in my mind to think about the things I have been able to do: Have a great conversation with a friend. Fold the laundry and put it away. Teach an online class (!!).
  6. Be conscious of the present moment and enjoy what I’m doing. When I practice this it’s actually a lot of fun. Turn on loud music or listen to a podcast while I clean. Pour a short glass of wine while I cook.
  7. For the to-dos that are necessary, I do best when I address them one-by-one and tune-out the rest of the noisy list in my head. This keeps me calm and speeds up each little job. Many don’t take but a few minutes!

What are YOUR techniques when overwhelm strikes? Please share!

*Last weekend I returned from southern California where I stayed with my mom for a week. One evening we were stunned by this glorious sunset. (Can you find the sliver of ocean in pics 3 and 4? Far right.) The photo below is what I was met by back at home in northern Illinois.

Janja’s Christening

Last weekend was the christening of little Jane Elizabeth. She was baptized with the name Janja, a Croatian word meaning “little lamb.” Janja is also the dear woman Jane was named for.

When Jane’s mama asked about a special blanket for the occasion, she had already searched this website and found the blanket I made for my own granddaughter’s baptism. What a pleasure it was to recreate this sweet lamb!

There was a small but meaningful bond I had with Jane Elizabeth as I worked on this for her—for my “maiden” initials (pre-marriage) are JEM too.

Blessings on your christening and most especially on your life, Janja. Such a wonderful name you have!

© Joan Olson
“Little Janja” (38×40)
Felted Wool Sweaters

Love isn’t love until…

Interested in making a felted wool sweater blanket, possibly with my new class? Sign up for free access to a video I’ve put together, Find and Choose Good Sweaters for Felting. It gives pointers on how to select great sweaters for making a blanket. This also adds your email to The Green Sheep newsletter list. (If you’re already on the newsletter list, your email won’t be duplicated.) Or learn more about the Felted Wool Blanket Master Class here!

Do you remember that little song? Love isn’t love until you give it away ♥. It’s true. And it happens with these shoe boxes.

For the past two years I’ve made a cozy wool blanket to pack into a shoe box with lots of other goodies for Operation Christmas Child. Last year, on the spur of the moment, I invited the folks on my email list to make one along with me and pack it for the same purpose.

Over twenty brave souls gave it a try!

I quickly learned to make videos and post them in a Facebook group, and we leapt into this project together. WOW. We had a really enjoyable time, we all learned a lot from each other, and the blankets turned out beautifully.

And since it’s fall + shoebox-packing time again, I am reminiscing by re-posting photos of some the blankets that came out of that venture. Check out these lovelies! You guys are so talented!

(Each blanket is made from thin felted wools
l
ike cashmere or merino and measures about 40″x50″. This way
they roll up tightly and fit in a shoebox with other fun and useful items.)

We were able to track where our boxes went, and of the ones I learned about we know 2 went to Honduras, 2 to Rwanda, 3 to Ghana, 1 to Madagascar, and 1 to “A Hard To Reach Area.” It’s delightful to know these blankets are out upon this planet, keeping children warm.

Guys, packing a shoe box is such a simple way to share all that love in your hearts. There certainly doesn’t need to be a handmade blanket in it! I’d love to encourage you to visit the Operation Christmas Child website and see what it would take. (Operation Christmas Child is sponsored by Samaritan’s Purse, an international relief organization which also does a lot of work with refugees around the world.) The shoe box deadline isn’t until mid-November. I’m going to try to make a blanket (from scraps I already have cut, so it’ll go quicker), but even if that doesn’t happen, I’m packing a shoe box. Anybody with me?

This year—although NOT in conjunction with the shoe box project—I’m offering a full-fledged, not-on-the-fly class to learn to make blankets: the Felted Wool Blanket Master Class. Fall is the time we start thinking of keeping warm, making gifts, and bringing beauty inside our homes. Many of us are ready to hunker down with a project. If this is you, the class is open for enrollment through September 28. Class itself starts on September 29. Just a week away! Questions? Leave them here or click on “Contact” in this page’s header.

By the way, there’s significance to the term “master class.” In the musical world especially, it refers to a seminar where advanced students are given individual attention by the master musician. I am not exactly a master and you may or may not be advanced, but one real value (and joy!) of this class is the interaction, support and feedback from each other and from me.  You are also completely welcome to do the class on your own and without interaction. But I hope you’d give it a try the other way first. I’d love to get to know you!

 

 

Blanket-Making Class is Open for Enrollment!

Interested in making a felted wool sweater blanket, possibly with my new class? Sign up for free access to a video I’ve put together, Find and Choose Good Sweaters for Felting. It gives pointers on how to select great sweaters for making a blanket. This also adds your email to The Green Sheep newsletter list. (If you’re already on the newsletter list, your email won’t be duplicated.)

Read on ↓↓↓ for more about the new class.


Oh, my—I just got to spend a beautiful, restful time in GREEN (England and Wales; these photos are all Wales), and I am excited to be back and launching my blanket class!

Have you been dreaming of making a blanket from wool sweaters you’ve collected? But you don’t know where to begin? Maybe you’re afraid of ruining the sweaters or hesitant that your blanket won’t turn out to be full of the loveliness you imagine. I know all those feelings!

At the tail end of September I’ll begin walking a group of blanket-makers step-by-step through the process of making a “sweater blanket” from upcycled wool sweaters. The class includes video and written instructions so you can choose your favorite learning style. If that described you in the paragraph above, consider joining the Felted Wool Blanket Master Class with me.

In addition to teaching the mechanics of putting together a basic “Green-Sheep style” blanket, I’ll also help you think through and plan the design stage of your unique blanket using the sweater colors and textures you have available. The course is designed as a work-along class, presented in three sections of 2 weeks each, to enable you to actually finish your blanket. Also, since you have complete freedom to decide on the size of blanket you make, you can influence how much time you will need to spend on the project. (The larger the blanket, the more time required.)

This class’ super-power is that we’ll have a private Facebook page throughout the project, a virtual meeting place for asking questions, getting input from me, sharing what we’re doing, encouraging each other and designing together. This part is really fun!

What is a basic “Green-Sheep style” blanket, you ask? It is—

  • a blanket made from strips of felted wool sweaters of similar weights
  • it consists of one layer and has very narrow raw seams on its backside (to preserve the wool’s gorgeous drape and avoid any machine-washed surprises from variations in felting)
  • it’s bound with a bias binding also made from a wool sweater

The techniques for this style of blanket, once learned, are easily transferred to other creative blanket ideas!

Interested? Find more information about the course here. Also, I’ll send you a link to a helpful video about how to begin collecting your sweaters for designing a blanket! Just sign up here:

Questions about anything? Contact me via this form.