“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

Two are Better than One

Yep. Two are better than one.¹ But more like TWENTY are better than one. Way better.

Last month I hung out in a virtual classroom with several women who made a child’s blanket and packed it in an Operation Christmas Child shoe box in exchange for learning how to make a wool blanket, Green-Sheep style.

The thing that surprised me most? How much fun it was. Every day I looked forward to coming home from work, hopping on my computer and joining the ongoing discussion.

“How did sweater shopping go?” “What colors did you find?” “Who’s got a blanket ‘first draft’ laid out?” “Are you making yours for a girl or a boy?”

I miss it!!

Finally—here’s a little gallery of our work. I figure we were able to complete about 15 blankets, and here are 11 of them. The variety reflects the regions in which we live, what our resale shops held the day(s) we went shopping, aaaand…our many personalities. (Click on each photo to view it larger.)

The best part: how these bright and talented people made our virtual classroom feel pretty darn near to a real one.

 

¹”Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”
—Ecclesiastes 4.9-10

 

 

 

“Wacky Pockets”

Argyle! Stripes! Patchwork! Puppy applique! There’s been a flurry of activity on the Facebook page where close to 20 creative women sewed their own sensibilities into felted wool blankets. I coached them with Green Sheep-style techniques and these sewists brilliantly took it from there.

We have been virtually planning, sewing, struggling, encouraging, and finally FINISHING our blankets alongside each other. I am charmed to see the beautiful work of these women and to imagine their gifts in the hands of youngsters around the world, via the simple shoe boxes we’re madly packing to be collected by Operation Christmas Child this week.

I made a blanket right along with the class, filming the process as I went. I made it for a boy this time, in the 5-9 age range. (I wanted to mix it up, as last year’s was for a girl.)

This blanket has cashmere and merino wools, a striped bias binding, and best of all, two pockets that button. I called it “Wacky Pockets” because one of the pockets is upside down.

Or maybe the other one is. It’s hard to tell.

Anyway, it’s been fun to think about a little boy this year, especially for this mom-of-two-daughters. I enjoyed picking out small, interesting things to pack in his shoe box.

So much stuff can fit in there! Because I am a container lover, I bought three for this little guy. One for his soap, a lock-top one in which the socks are packed, and a round, screw-top one. The Slinky and some awesome rubber-tip clips (from the hardware aisle!) fit perfectly inside it.

And now it’s off. Wing your way, little box, to a precious boy who could use your stuff.

I’m pretty sure this wish is the same for all the other women in our class. May the kids be blessed as much as we have by this little project. ♥

©Joan Olson
“Wacky Pockets” (42×52″)
Felted wool sweaters

“Do you teach how to make blankets?”

[I’m afraid it’s too late to join the class, but you are welcome to pack your own shoe box for a child in difficult circumstances. Follow this link and let a young person know someone cares. It means more than you can know.]

How could I have known how much fun I was about to have?

Two weeks ago, after brewing up the idea just days earlier, I launched a little online class. Well, I thought it would be little.

A still shot from my “Welcome” video, made in the guest bedroom. I accidentally got the bed in the frame.

I regularly receive questions from blog readers about making blankets: “How do you make your binding?” “Do you back your blankets?” “What kind of sweaters do you buy?” I do my best to answer these sewists, one at a time, generally through email. They are always enthusiastic and eager to learn, and are filled with questions. I love this interaction.

But each time I’ve been asked, “Do you teach a class somewhere?” I’ve simply said  “No.” That limp answer started to bother me. What was stopping me? I knew: fear of the unknown.

The first frame of my third video. I’m still figuring out lighting.

Then I received a notice about Operation Christmas Child coming up and was reminded I wanted to make a child’s blanket again for a shoe box. It clicked. This could be the kick in the pants I needed! How fun would it be to create something beautiful for kids alongside a bunch of stitch-loving women?

I thought of other ventures in life I had waffled on because of fear of the unknown—going to grad school, starting a blog…having children :). Without a doubt, great outcomes, all. I certainly appreciate having my ducks in a row, but that can’t always be.

Two weekends ago, with me needing to master several things quickly, the unruly ducks waddled everywhere:

How do I use the format of a private Facebook group to teach a class?
How do I sequence MailChimp’s forms and confirmations to move people
into a virtual classroom?
How do I make videos, edit and post them?

The dining room set up with lights and camera for a session on laying out a blanket. I had to be careful not to trip on cords while taping.

Fortunately, I already had an outline of course content because Tara Swiger’s practical book Map Your Business recently propelled me to draw up action steps toward some goals (even though I was avoiding executing them!).

So I borrowed photography lights, watched YouTube videos about how to make a video, made two videos using my outline notes, and sent out an invitation to my email subscribers to join me in making a child’s blanket for an Operation Christmas Child shoe box.

I expected three people to join me, and I am not kidding. I was a bit off. Two dozen people signed up!

Scripts for the videos, often taped to the lower half of the camera.

Now there we are, over on Facebook, having a ball. A group of fascinating women teaching, learning, encouraging and spurring one another on. And doing our level best to hit the National Collection Week deadline of November 13-20 for our blanket-filled, lovingly packed shoe boxes.

I’m learning so much from these women! It’s spurring me on to make a plan for more teaching.

[I’m afraid it’s too late to join the class, but you are welcome to pack your own shoe box for a child in difficult circumstances. Follow this link and let a young person know someone cares. It means more than you can know.]

A still shot of some fancy graphics, before I learned more video-editing. The advice certainly fits my learning curve too!

Still looking for that something-special gift?

Hi, folks! I completely forgot to announce this here on the blog, but I have wonderfully warm woolen mittens and fun one-of-a-kind Christmas stockings in my Etsy shop! There are just a handful (heehee!) of mittens left, so check them out now if you’re interested.

Link here: www.etsy.com/shop/TheGreenSheepStudio

Our faithful US Postal Service’s 3-Day Priority Mail will get them to you before Christmas if you order by this Friday, December 16 (if you are in the US).  It’s getting risky after that, but I’ll do my best to ship items quickly!


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Thanks for looking! Etsy shop link: www.etsy.com/shop/TheGreenSheepStudio

Name That Blanket…Results!

Thanks, everyone, for stirring up your creative juices to help name this blanket! You guys are great. This is the blanket that got packed up in an Operation Christmas Child box a couple of weeks ago. But as I was writing the blog post about it, I suddenly realized it had been sent out without a name. But names matter! Many of you came to the rescue, adding ideas on Facebook, Instagram, and this blog. A couple of you emailed me.

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These are the wonderful ideas that came in. Making the final choice was difficult!

Blanket of Love
A Bright Beginning
Christmas Child
Promise
Pastel Peace
Colors of Love
Quiet Rainbow
Heaven’s Hues
God’s Perfect Promise
The Christmas Rainbow
A Rainbow of Love
Vibrant Love
A Box of Sherbet
Ribbon Candy
A Rainbow Promise Pocket

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After much deliberation, the WINNER IS…

    ♥ THE CHRISTMAS RAINBOW ♥

I realized I wanted it to be a name that worked from a child’s perspective, so I tried to think like a little one. “The Christmas Rainbow” rose to the top because 1) I could imagine a child thinking it; 2) both “Christmas” and “rainbow” hold all the significance of the promise within each one of those; & 3) the blanket is not REALLY rainbow colors or rainbow sequence, but it is unusual, like a rainbow at Christmastime would be. Credit for “The Christmas Rainbow” name goes to Melissa Dugan.

And now this blanket can find its proper place in the world, since it has been named :)

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[Click here for the full story of “The Christmas Rainbow.”]