“The Blessings Tree”

Teaching Gratitude- Create a resource that you will use over and over again.

For family, for your group- no matter the age.
By Ronda Gilger. ****for our knitters!

It’s quite easy to add up offenses, unjustness, disappointments, and losses. It becomes a work of the heart to stop and take just a moment to be aware of the blessings and beauty.

First, create the “tree”. Into a sturdy vase arrange several thin branches- adding enough so that it resembles a bare tree. Lovely right? But it gets better!

I wanted to create a visual illustration to remind me of hope. We all need to work to keep from being swallowed by the negative that is everywhere. Hold onto Faith. Grace. Inspiration.
The challenge: On days where you are overwhelmed and it seems impossible to see anything good -Everyday—�Be aware… look for it. Even when you feel broken- look. For one kind word. For the music that inspires, the touch of a friend, for something silly that makes you laugh or the way someone’s inward beauty shines through. ONE thing.
The idea is that we need to do more than merely survive our days.
Speak it out loud as you hang your leaf on the tree. One per day- for a week. Repeat.
Hold onto pieces of “wonderful”. At the end of the week, your Blessing Tree is in BLOOM! And I’m working on a different color set for each member of the family so that as we sit down to dinner/ we have one thing “built-in” to speak about! And the more leaves on the tree- the more joy. I have grown kids and this is for each family- a new way to see every day. I also have a set of 30 for the office…great for morale.
And remember-we may be someone else’s blessing-

Materials-(2) US2 DPNs
Sock yarn to sport weight
Darning needle and scissors

Loopy Stem: CO 3. Work icord for 2.75”.
What is an icord? Video link at bottom of post.
Begin Row 1 of leaf.
Row 1: K1, YO 1, K1, YO, K1. Turn. (Odd rows are Right side-RS).
Row 2: K2, yarn to front. Sl1 st. Yarn to back, K2. Turn at end of every row. (Even rows are Wrong Side-WS).
Row 3: K2, YO, K1, K2
Row 4: K3, YF, Sl 1 St, YB, K3.
Row 5: K3, YO, K1, YO, K3
Row. 6: K4, YF, Sl 1St, YB, K 4.
Continue pattern until your leaf is 17 st across the front of leaf.
Back of this row: K8, YF, Sl 1 St, K8
A. Next row- K 17 across.
B. Back of this row- K8, YF, Sl St, K8.
Repeat A & B 1 more time.
Decrease rows:.
Knit across row to last 2 stitches…K2tog. Turn.
Repeat this row until you have 1 stitch left.
Cut yarn 8″ and pull through this last stitch.
Using a tapestry needle…weave in end of leaf and form loopy stem.
Steam with your iron holding it 1/2″ above the leaf…shape.
Make 7 leaves plus 1 Holder to create your set.

Loopy holder: (to “thread all of your Blessing leaves onto when the lesson is done”
Cast on 3 stitches. Knit cord for 10”
Continue to create a smaller leaf-
from the end of the icord exactly as you made the leaf until there are 13 stitches on your needle. Continue and decrease as in the leaf pattern from 13 stitches down to one.
Weave in ends and form a smaller loop on Icord end.
***tie a knot using icord close to leaf end. Tie another knot over the first knot to bulk it up- adjust to make an attractive knot.
You will thread the leaves onto the holder and the smaller leaf through the small loop of the holder to store your Blessing Tree leaves.
Options- add beads?
icord …. https://youtu.be/wcJvy1oZhco
YO=yarn over
YF=yarn front
Sl 1 st=slip 1 stitch
YB=yarn back
K2tog. Knit 2 stitches together.

Fine. Fine. REALLY, I’m FINE!

FineFineFineSo often we come together and forget that as the body of Christ, we should be a strong support for one another.  We carelessly say, “I’M FINE- REALLY- I’M FINE!” because to say otherwise would be to burden others with OUR problems.  Still, isn’t that what the scriptures teach us? It’s deeper and wider than that!

Pass out a little paper umbrella to those present.

Bear One Another’s Burdens      Galatians 6:2 ESV

 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 

Join into a circle

Leader: Somewhere in life we’ve wrongly learned that Christians are to be happy all the time- after all, being anything “other” reflects poorly on Jesus. And our wrong internalizations are reflected in the words coming out of the Church pulpit today- “Be ye, perfectionists, even as we are perfectionists”. (or at least it seems that way sometimes). When our lives are “sunny” this works, but when the STORMS comes… Well, watch out, my friend, we look all too human. What’s ironic- is that in the midst of our messy humanness-God allows those around us to connect authentically… and we learn that they are “experiencing downpours, and hurricanes of life” as well. And rather than being left sad, weak, and broken; we can find connection and strength- and the realization that God is right there beside us. Let your little umbrellas remind you that you are never alone-even when life “rains down on you”.  Bear one another’s burdens.  Hold one another up.   Silence is not golden.

#1. We are never alone. Hold one another up. *and #2 Restore one another.

We love the message of verse 2, but we don’t want to forget the transforming challenge of verse 1:

Brothers and sisters,  if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 

We understand that there are varying levels of spiritual maturity in any group.  As we gather there is a tendency to speak, to act and interact from our own.  Maybe it is time to speak the truth out loud – To refocus and make it a priority to truly “see” others (not just “ME”).  We need to look for ways to restore one another, to “gently” restore one another.  This word “gentle” is such an important 6 little letters.  Your first step might begin with prayer for God’s best in the lives of someone else.  Oh no!  This might mean that God wants us to pray for that “irritating person”.  Yes!  Exactly.  (*and sometimes, this is us!)

As we bring these two verses together they challenge us because if we are honest we admit that- we are all sinners.  Human and flawed.  We have knowingly crossed the line.  We have all broken God’s laws. This extends to our relationships.  Our words have been weapons. Our attitudes betray the truth of what is in our hearts.

But imagine now, your sisters in Christ surrounding you with love and gentleness- because we are in the business of restoration.  Forgiveness therapy, right?  “And as we bear one another’s burdens” – we are told, “we fulfill the law of Christ”.

So much to take in.  We need to internalize, then to externalize God’s Word as we live out our faith.   One verse does not stand independently.  Relationships are growing and changing and allow for opportunities to teach us to be Christlike every day- in practical ways.  Let the healing begin. Let’s join together to be a part of it.

I pray that you feel God’s presence today as you hear these words.  I am praying this for you.

May God renew your passion and transform the way that you restore one another in gentleness.  If one were to take the ministry of reconciliation seriously- think what miracles in the Church of Christ; the world would see!



Mystery Knitting Project

Mystery Knitting project


For our many women’s knitting & Crochet circles- it may be a fun idea to promote a Mystery knitting project.  You can invite participants to celebrate with one another at a completion event (Refreshments or coffee and tea).  Invite all to wear their “finished knitties” and just watch their sense of accomplishment grow!

Materials: You need 200 yds. of a sport or worsted weight yarn, and US size 9-12 knitting needles.

    *Cast on 20 stitches
    *Row 1.knit 8, turn, knit back to beginning.
    *Row 2.knit 6, turn, knit back to beginning
    *Row 3. Knit 4, turn, knit back to beginning
    *Knit across all 20 st.
    Repeat these rows until the desired length is reached. End off.

I hate to ruin the suspense but the pictures are here!  Have fun!  They call this the Potato Chip Scarf (because no one can make just one!)  Note: you can also wear 2 together for a different effect!    If you are keeping this a TOTAL MYSTERY- You can print a copy of the instructions here:  MYSTERY KNITTING HANDOUT


Craft DIY: Squash Book Party

“What is a Squash Book?”, you ask?

Squash Books DIY


A Squash Book is a three-dimensional “scrapbook of sorts” which opens up in such a manner that it resembles a squash!  The idea is not new, and many Squash Books were hand-made during WWII by sweethearts who placed photos, love notes, and mementos from their soldiers into the pockets of the Squash Book. I’ll never forget discovering Grandma’s Squash Book, filled with memories of “Charlie”, my grandfather, who died long before I’d ever been born. The stories that she told me, as she ran her fingers over each note, bible verse, postcard, stamp, button or photo tucked inside the pockets; were priceless. They revealed her love for him and introduced me to a man I’d never known.  Aren’t Grandmas wonderful?

The Squash Book Party has great potential for bringing generations together, for celebrating family, loves, and friendship.  You will find that it has great cross-over value for many of your programs!  Children love it (Create the best Mother’s Day cards ever!), seniors, young adults…But TEACH A WOMAN, and you will have created interest, self-esteem- and they will teach others! Inspiration is contagious.

Setting the Scene for your Squash Book Party: 

  • Print off the document*: Squash Book DIY Tutorial.pdf and make a sample. Invite others! Show it off!…Your sample will sell the program!  “Wow!” Your women will say, “I have got to go!”  *found on your accompanying ResourceCD.
  • Place supplies on the table. (all listed in the tutorial). Print enough of the DIY Tutorials for each of your women. The cost for these supplies is minimal, and you may already have most on hand.
  • Program Elements:
    1. Refreshments: Tastes from a generation gone by. Grandma’s best Banana Bread, Zucchini, or Pumpkin Bread. If sharing a meal: Crockpot Vegetable Soup and muffins. Let the scrumptious smells fill the room!
    2. Shared Traditions: If not done as a group activity, the Squash Book can be made ahead and shared as a “demonstration”. Instead, focus on memories and traditions shared which connect us generationally. You might request that each woman bring a trinket or treasure that she would “put in a pocket” to be found by the next generation… Take turns sharing the significance of these items (loves, lessons learned, inspiration).
    3. Making the Squash Book: Following the DIY Tutorial Instructions, with step by step photos, creation of these books should take 45 minutes to an hour.   It is important to have made a sample, so that you will be able to help your women be successful!  Be sure to generate positive conversation around the table, noting how each one looks so wonderful!
  • Devotional:

“Glory Stories”

Luke 24: 1-2 is a “pause” in scripture where all of the Old and New Testaments’ come into focus, and we are left breathless…”It is absolutely, without a doubt TRUE”, we whisper.  From the very beginning, God knew just how far we would fall and He set his rescue plan into motion. The prophets foretold it, history marks the date of Christ’s coming, of his ministry and death; and in what seems too horrific to imagine, the obedient, innocent Son, is put to death. “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” he cries (Luke 23:46). And the sky goes black, and the thunder roars…the curtain of the Temple is torn in two. It’s over.

These women saw the whole gruesome scene play out.  There is no record of their hiding themselves away as did most of the disciples. Joseph of Arimathea is granted permission to take Jesus’ body, placing it in his tomb, and scripture tells us that the women went with him. They are eye-witnesses, seeing firsthand the One they love now laid to rest.

Early on the morning after the Sabbath is over, they come to the tomb. They, with tear stained faces go to wrap him and gently prepare his broken body with spices as was their custom. These are women who had seen Jesus’ in his day to day ministry as he’d loved, taught, healed… and Oh! How this Son of Man reached out the poor, to the untouchable, the unclean, and treated women in a way that went against all cultural norms!

“Is the Father like the Son? Could it be so?” they might wonder.” The Father smiles.

The risen Christ shows himself first to women.  This gender, whose testimony would not stand up in court and whose voices were rarely heard. Even the disciples thought their words to be nonsense. (vs 11). Yet to the marginalized, He comes.

“And the stone was rolled away” (vs.2).  All of history converges on this moment where yesterday and tomorrow meet. “They remembered his words (vs 8).  In an instant it all came flooding back! Christ’s teachings, his love, the prophecies, and God’s promise that forgiveness is now given to all people in all generations as they reach out to him in faith, believing.  It’s true! God is with us!  Immanuel.

The finest news in all creation is that there is hope and that it is ours to live and to share as a personal “glory story”. I would ask each of you today; “If someone were to look through the pockets of your life, what stories might they find? And would they find Jesus?” I challenge you, as loved women of God, to tell His story over and over; carrying on the legacy of the women who walked through darkest pain and sorrow, only to see him face to face.


Sand Dollar Cookies Devotion: Jesus Calms the Sea

Sand Dollar Cookies Jesus Calms the Sea

Sand Dollar Cookies         

  •     Leader’s tip: This is a program that will work most effectively as you encourage conversation.  Personal stories, ideas, perspectives, witness…..  Goal: 1) edible illustration (“Taste and See that the Lord is good!),  2) Scripture that is well-read…with a bit of drama please!  3) Conversation– Each woman’s voice is important, and 4) Prayer for one another.

Make Sand-Dollar Cookies using your Pillsbury Sugar Cookie dough-ready-made! Simple is good!  For those of your women that are bakery chefs; they are free to bring home-made, chilled Sugar Cookie dough rather than using ready-made.  Options-Options-options.

To create a Sand Dollar Cookie you will need to shape your cookie dough into flat circles. Sprinkle each with a mixture of sugar with a bit of cinnamon added (sand!). Place 5 almond slices as pictured to create the perfect sand dollar star, bake according to directions.

Devotion: Jesus Calms the Sea.  Calming the Storms of our Lives.

Scripture: Read Luke 8:22-25 

22 One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they set out, 23 and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger. 24 And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm. 25 He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?”

Discussion Questions-

  1. Imagine how it would feel to be in a small boat on a lake in the middle of a life-threatening storm? Would you be scared?
  2. What was Jesus doing during the storm?
  3. When Jesus woke up, what did he do?
  4. When Jesus calmed the storm, what were the disciples thinking?
  5. After they saw Jesus calm the storm, how did his actions change their view of who He was?

In your small group (leader’s choice)

  • Finish the sentence, “Jesus is….”
    What are some times in your life when it is important to remember that Jesus is the Son of God?  Why?
  • How does Jesus help us during those times?  
    Prayer for one another: May God give peace to you as you face the storms in your life today.

    Know that you can talk to Jesus, the Son of God, sharing all that concerns you today.


“The Lord gives the word of power; the women who bear and publish the news are a great host.” – Psalms 68:11

Celebrations are “program-rich gifts”, sweet opportunities for those in your group to gather to strengthen relationships with one another and to awaken new spiritual growth.  Plan events for women of all ages to journey through the seasons of their lives in ways that are authentic and honest.  Create a bridge from celebration to faith that develops your women.  We have opportunities to integrate the gifts God has given to each woman, channeling them towards steps forward in their relationships, service, and faith.  Unwrap the gift!

The Celebration is sometimes an incredible launching pad for leaders, which is why we program in such a way that we see transformation.

Look through our program ideas and make them your own.  I have taken time to pray for all those who are creating the ministries you’ve always dreamed of.  May God guide you as you plan.  And the best way to plan? Add the “spiritual giftings” of others!


Conversations around the Manger

I believe that often some of the best programs capture the voice of our women as they share with one another.  Personal experiences are……. personal.  When our women share their own lives and loves- connection happens that might not otherwise.  For the leader, this is also an opportunity to “manage” a program rather than being solely responsible for all of the details.  This is one such program.

Many of your women will have Nativity Sets. (Some may not, while others have several). Invite women to bring and display their Creches, or collections that have “meaning” to them for various reasons.  “Meaning”: This is open to interpretation, isn’t it?  Your planning may be as simple or elaborate as you choose….do the Creches become centerpieces, or are they displayed on tables? Will this be a quiet time of storytelling, or will it be part of a larger program?

Sometimes the women’s stories will be about what the “Advent: Coming of the Savior” means to them personally. Their story may be focused on the person that gave them the treasure.  The story may bring back memories, or remind them of humorous family moments.

Individuals can share in small groups around tables, or representative stories can be told for the whole group.  Create Community.  Before you leave- form a circle-hold hand and pray for one another – and for others.

Devotion: A Shared Nativity Story from the Gilger Family:

“If you ever want to see Jesus again, you’ll pay the ransom!”

Nativity view of 2 sets

My children are all forces of nature. Strong, independent world changers.  I must admit that they also possess a quick wit that has always led to memorable stories at family gatherings. Like every year we decorated our tree, hung the garland and the lights, added stockings and snowmen, and laid out the Nativities.  Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and the wisemen all took their places. Hot chocolate was made, Christmas music played and our 4 children acted like….. well,…. children.   I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I’m afraid midst the perfect moments there were dirty dishes. a few broken bulbs, and tinsel everywhere.  Hallmark Cards never quite catch the delightful humaness of family!  My husband and I chose to relax into the beauty of it all as the children asked to bring their blankets down to sleep in this place of magic.  Dishes and deep cleaning would wait until the kids were asleep.  *IF they would actually fall asleep!

As a Salvation Army officer there is a pace of Christmas busy-ness that can rob you of energy and inspiration.  The years taught us some lessons about time and memories for family and how to creatively integrate them.  There were days we could have won awards for best parents ever and others where we barely crawled into bed at night.  It is never easy, but we press on – for we are the visual representation of Christ- and this we cannot forget.  See the best- Love well.  Forgive one another often, and hold onto Jesus.

This same year our children- (we still do not know exactly WHO to this day) decided to give us a Christmas illustration that we would retell over and over.  That first day after the decorations went up- our “Baby Jesus” went missing.  In the days to follow strange things were in store for us.  One day there was a little green Star Wars Yoda lying in the manger.  Another, a ransom note that we were to leave $25  behind wisemen #2 for the safe return of the Savior of the World. There were days when there were keys in the manger… cupcakes, the lambs, and the angels took their turns.  I suppose it was their own version of “Elf on the Shelf”…   Finally, on Christmas Day – Baby Jesus appeared!  We were all waiting for it, though there was a small part of me that wondered if maybe he had been LOST forever.

Jesus is here!  Jesus is here!  So often we replace him with things, and “stuff” and activities.  So often we are sidetracked by life, and circumstances and we are captives of our exhaustion and emotions.   Jesus is central to Salvation.  He is our strength. Our Protector.  Our lifesong.  Hold onto that.

Remember Jesus in practical ways every day.  Live your life and love others in a way that is compassionate.  We are responsible for our own attitudes and our words. Others actions are not a reason for us to compromise ours.

Read Luke 2:1-20 and close in prayer.