In My Backyard #18 - Eastern Phoebe

This year, every thing has come earlier. I realize that in some areas there is still snow on the ground. But not here. For a while there it was touch and go, changing drastically from cold to hot. Unfortunately, for the last few months it's been more hot than cold. Though I am not complaining; summer as we know it has only reared it's searing head in just the last few weeks.

It has felt like perpetual spring, which is pretty lovely. Aside from the fact that some of the plants and trees have already finished blooming, we've had the early arrival of our spring birds to brighten any let-downs.

This year we were honored by the presence of a new neighbor, the Eastern Phoebe. I'm a bird-watcher, as is the rest of my family, to varying degrees, and we notice the different species of birds occupying our neighborhood. Sitting in our living room, we'll suddenly perk up at the unique song of the Baltimore Oriole and give each other a knowing look, happy that they have returned yet another year to our Poplar tree.

Other times, we'll be walking and suddenly hear a distinct song. We'll stop and stare into the trees for a period and I can just imagine the neighbors going, "There's that strange Yarbrough family again, staring into the trees at heaven knows what."

Earlier this year, we were sprawled on the front lawn enjoying the warm sun when we were visited by a new species. The grayish bird fluttered sporadically to-and-fro just inches from my sister's head before returning to its perch in the Crepe Myrtle. I was immediately fixated by its behavior, let alone the familiarity with which it regarded us.

Another encounter, the one in which I was able to take these pictures, occurred while I was taking pictures of a current project. The phoebe fluttered around just inches from me as if it was intrigued by what I was doing. For once I had a camera and I wasted little time in turning my lens to the bird. Sadly, the pictures do not do the bird justice. Because of the light behind it you are unable to see its coloring.

I was then able to identify it as an Eastern Phoebe, a species we had never seen before. I found out that it was a flycatcher and its tendency toward sporadic fluttering allowed them to quickly catch insects, their natural diet. I also learned that they like to nest in nooks of buildings and therefore are not overly afraid of humans. Evidenced by the few encounters of our own.

The funny thing is, they are known to be loners. And indeed, each time we saw one, there was just one. I had a little trouble knowing for sure what they were because when I first saw one, it had a faint yellow tint to its belly, but the next one's were nearly solid gray. I read that this is typical of fresh fall plumage, though why they would appear that way in late winter, early spring, I cannot say.

Unfortunately, since then I haven't seen anymore. Maybe they merely stopped by looking for a good place to nest before moving on. My fingers are crossed, hoping to see them some more this year. But even more so do I hope they return next year and the next, and so on, to become permanent residents, like the Oriole have. Though we may live in a neighborhood surrounded by houses and people, we do have some nature, more than a city-dweller would, and I am only too pleased.

Are you familiar with phoebes? If you want to know a little more about them, and hear their songs, visit the link, All About Birds.

Thanks for reading!

Strawberry Patch Garland | New Crochet Design

Since designing my first garland last Christmas I have made five different garland patterns, three of which you can find right here at Ginger Peachy, while all of them are listed on my Etsy. I have developed a fascination with garland, like the fascination with the mini pillows. There are so many different designs possible within the garland or mini pillow format. Are you getting tired of them? You will before I do, so let me know!

This week I am sharing my latest garland design, created for Crochet Spot, inspired by the arrival of spring and everything green. My brother's strawberries have reached their spring peak and while they were growing I thought, how natural it would be to design a strand of strawberries! The red just pops against the green, and the little blossoms add pleasant accents of yellow and white.

I originally sketched out two different garland ideas. One was like this, what I consider 2D, with flat strawberries on a single strand. The other would have been more involved, 3D strawberries and enough leaves and blossoms to cover the garland strand. It's really hard to decide between two ideas like this since immediately you realize that one is easy and simple and the other long and involved. I'm never one to sacrifice a good project for less work. It feels cheap and second best. But in this case, I liked both ideas, obviously. So I got a second opinion, or more. Surprisingly, those of my family that were around at the time to consult said they liked the simpler, 2D garland idea better. Who knew? So I went for it. But I can't help wondering what the other would have looked like. Don't worry, someday I'll just have to try it.

Let's take a look at the process. (The pattern will be available at Crochet Spot soon, and the garland itself is available for purchase at Ginger Peachy Store!)

Initially I planned on 5 strawberries, 4 blossoms, and 9 leaves. But before I got to 9 with the leaves I did what I always do, measure up. I measured my idea up to what I had. It turned out that I preferred 5 of each. Now I'm glad I didn't crochet 4 more leaves.

What do you think of my strawberries, blossoms, and leaves? Aren't they cute?

Sometimes I use sport weight yarn for my garland, and sometimes I use acrylic, medium weight. For some reason, though, cotton was the natural candidate for this piece. I had a lot leftover from the Pastel Hearts Mini Pillow I made, plus some more I had bought for color comparison, so it was obvious that cotton would be used.

One thing about cotton, though. I love the look of it, and I love how sturdy it is, but I often give my wrists a workout when I use it. There's no give, so when the gauge is tight, my muscles are just as tight. Thence comes the pain. But happily, this project didn't take a whole lot out of me. It was easier than I expected, and I am glad.

I did something different this time. I incorporated the method of attaching the elements into the pattern of each piece. For example, before completing the strawberry and leaf design, you slip stitch into the garland and then complete the piece, strawberry cap or leaf stem.

Because of this, I recommend crocheting the garland strand first, whereas normally I crochet it last. Of course, for the design process I did crochet it last, and I simply ripped to get to the part of the pattern of each element where I wanted to attach it. But you crochet different when you are designing a pattern and not working an already finalized one.

Here is a lovely closeup of the garland finished and all pieces attached. Many times I work my garland on our living room floor, stretching to and fro to attach the pieces and measure the strand. This time I took it to the table where I did not have to stretch and strain. It worked like a studio, with everything at my fingertips. Plus the lighting from the sliding glass door made better pictures. But working in the living room is much more conducive to my lifestyle, so I'm sure I'll be back to the impracticality of the living room floor next time.

Per signature garland design, I put little rings on either end of the garland to provide a better way of hanging it from wherever you wish to hang it. When I was designing my first garland, the ends were my hang up, if you'll pardon the pun. Who wants to just end a lovely strand of homemade garland? I noticed another person having something similar and I knew that was the way I wanted to go. You will find little rings at the end of all my garland designs for a better, more efficient way to hang garland.

I designed this pattern for Crochet Spot and have only now submitted it for review. Sometime over the next few weeks it will be made available for free to anyone who wants to try their hand at it.

I also have a listing for the garland up in my Etsy where you can buy the actual item. Be sure, while you are there, to check out the other garlands and items I have available!

So what do you think about my latest design? Come back soon and I will have links up for how you can find both the pattern and purchase the garland!

Retro Fashion Sketches Inspired By Retro Dresses | 60's Fashion

Your's, Mine, and Ours (1968) is one of my favorite movies. There are a lot of things I appreciate about it, like how the children are more respectful and they don't paint large families as uncontrollable and wild. But as a self-proclaimed fashion aficionado, it's a great blast from the past, as they say.

While watching the film the other night I had an idea to draw a few sketches of similar design. The sketches above are the result. Later I took watercolor pencils and gave the sketches some color.

If you are not familiar with the movie, each girl is based after one of the oldest girls in the movie: Rosemary, Louisa, and Colleen. Rosemary was dark-haired and she wore her hair long, while Louisa wore hers short. Colleen was a red-head and wore hers long as well but with short bangs.

Let me show you a few screenshots from the film that particularly inspired these dresses.

Rosemary is the one in center in the light purple dress. I took the color from this one but the design of my sketch for her was a mix of them all. Notice that Louisa is in yellow, a color she wears many times.

This shot is the one that inspired Louisa's yellow dress. Now that I look at it, I had intended on making my sketch of her sleeveless like this one but I somehow lost that thought by the time I got to her.

I like Rosemary's dress here also, by the way. The color is unique, and the style with the puffed sleeves and detailed front looks like a modernized Victorian dress.

Unfortunately, I was unable to get a good shot of Colleen's dress full length, but this is partially the dress that inspired my sketch. She often wears baby doll style dresses in pink. Frankly I find it funny to put a red-head in pink, since I am a red-head who looks terrible in pink. But I've learned that there are green-eyed red-heads and blue-eyed red-heads, and the blue-eyed can wear the cooler tones. But that's alright, I am happy with my earthy tones.

Here is a mini-shirtdress Colleen wears with ankle length stockings and flats.

Now here is a change of style for her - a terribly cute outfit consisting of a beige sweater and orange plaid mini-skirt. She is also wearing stockings and flats.

For a toned down mood, she wears a simple pale yellow button-up with a pair of stylish but casually loose gray slacks.

In this last picture, she wears a dress very similar to the one I drew. Only unless I recalled it from memory, I didn't see this till I had finished my sketch. Upon closer inspection, you can see that her dress is striped with orange.

One thing that I included in every sketch was a headband. This was the era where no matter what hairstyle you wore, if you wanted to be stylish, wear a headband. This is also a good example of late 60's makeup.

Rosemary wears a deep teal here in keeping with the dark colors she is often seen in. It's an interesting look with its white edging and low waist. She also wears a choker style necklace with a gold pendant. For once she is not wearing a headband, but I like it as well.

And lastly, Louisa wears a loose fitting tank top with slacks while Rosemary wears another low-waisted dress. Come to think of it, hers here looks a little like what I had in mind, so I must have been recalling from memory after all. I have seen it a good many times... But I still can't name all of the characters. Can you?

Lucille Ball wears a simple but lovely plaid, linen dress during this scene.

The little girls and boys in this film were so adorable. This was when kids wore cute clothes instead of miniature adult clothes. You'll see big, rounded collars, pastel plaids on summer dresses, and dark plaid button-ups, just too cute!

I tried to cut down the pictures I chose to share in this post (you wouldn't believe it, right?), but I could definitely have added more. With so many ages and personalities, this movie is a plethora of retro inspiration. In fact, because of the many characters I think it is a good example of all around life in this time period. And that's why I like it.

It's great fun looking back over the years of history and discovering things about it that are no longer a part of our modern culture. Not only am I fascinated by retro clothing, but I love to find out how they used to eat and live in days past. In some ways life hasn't changed much. But in other ways, there are pieces of history that are completely lost.

What's your opinion of lost history? What do you think about my sketches? Are you a retro fashion lover like me? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below or comment on any of my social medias. Find links at the top, right of the page!

Mixed Media Collage, Strawberries, and What's on My Mind

My plans have been changed again. Instead of introducing to you my latest mixed media project, all I can offer is another episode of WIP's. But even so, I am happy that I am able to blog at all today. I hurt my neck Monday night and have been practically useless over the last three days, dealing with neck pain and headaches. However, I thank God that it wasn't one of the worst times I've had.

Just so you know that I do have crafts in the making, I'm going to show you a few pictures of what I have been working on.

The pictures are not really good but then again I wasn't prepared to take pictures like this, added to the fact that it has clouded up and begun to rain. I am the worst at taking progress pictures, and even though I scold myself on it consistently, I still forget to take them. There is also the fact that I most often work at nights when lighting is terrible.

What I am working on here is a nautical collage of some of my favorite inspirational quotes. I had this idea when I saw the collage in the store. Then I ran across a collection of maxims in the Journals of Jim Elliot that just fit. I can't wait to have it finished so I can show you all.

My next pattern for Crochet Spot revolves around strawberries. I always tend to think of strawberries around spring, maybe more than flowers in general. But I will go into detail about this project when I am finished.

I realize that I haven't done a Ginger Peachy pattern in a while and I am not happy about that. The two pillows I did last for Crochet Spot were quite involved and took me a long time and a lot of work to design. By the time I was finished with one it was time to start on the next. This months is going to be a little simpler, though hopefully just as cute.

I have a couple of patterns that I have been working on little by little for Ginger Peachy, but so far they have been getting a back seat. I was working on the baby blanket Monday before I injured myself, but I hope to have that one available in my store soon enough. I guess we'll just have to wait and see how much I can get done.

Frustrations Leading to Conclusions

It's really hard having to spend many days unable to do anything. I get frustrated, feeling useless and burdensome to my family. They are always good to me, making sure I take it easy and do what is best for quick healing. But day after day of doing nearly nothing takes its toll. Yesterday I was getting terribly disheartened. It's at these moments when your emotions are low and depression sets in. It was a real struggle at times to keep from feeling sorry for myself and giving in to depression.

However, today has been equally difficult in a way, because though I am feeling well, I fail to see the importance of what I do. There are many times when I struggle with this, whether my work is really important or not. When I'm not getting a whole lot of business, I wonder if I am wasting my time. I understand the answers to all that. My family has told me time and again not to worry, my work is important, and if I am doing what God has given me a talent for then I am were I should be. I do believe that my work pleases Him, only at times it's easy to forget.

This morning I was recalling my first passion, to become a missionary. I used to tell people that when I was young and they asked, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" A missionary, and yet here I am, stuck doing nothing because of pain. How ironic. But then again, maybe not so ironic.

We are only good to God when He can use us. He can only use us when we are humbled before Him. The flesh of man is proud and not given to humility. It's the hard things in life that teach a person humility. I think of people who are bedridden for long periods, or life, and I am ashamed at my tendency to despair. Joni Eareckson Tada comes to mind at these moments, a woman who has been paralyzed for many, many years. You would think she, above all, has a reason to lose heart. And yet, I remember reading in her book, Joni, that she has had to deal with it and watch God prove sufficient again and again. 

These moments, which at times seem hopeless, are how God teaches me. Really, one does not choose to be a missionary like one would choose to be a scientist or engineer. You may have a heart for it, but the training for a life serving God and being a tool in His hand is something you can't get a degree in, or ever fully accomplish. It's a life of continual learning.

I think of how churches plan mission trips where they take young people to a place somewhere else, in another state or another country, and the young people work, teach, share a little of their bounty, and feel good about themselves. Then they come home feeling godly and go on with their normal lives. Until the next mission trip. 

Looking at serving God in this manner greatly narrows it's importance. What is more impacting to people, arriving in your groups with your personalized t-shirts, doing some helpful things, maybe sharing some resources with them, and leaving, or choosing to change your life for them, like the Elliot's in Ecuador, or Amy Carmichael in India? Showing people Jesus takes more than a quick trip and a gospel tract, it takes getting in the mud with them, living in a hut if that's how they live. To become a caring person instead of a self-righteous stranger, you must get down off your pedestal and join them in the field.

And that's what scares me. Do I love God enough to let go of the things that make my life comfortable? 

Recently, I read about a man in the In Touch ministry highlights who gave up his well-to-do business to spread the gospel to villagers in the Congo. He said the last thing he gave up was his memory foam mattress, his "final sacrifice of first-world comfort." He and his wife live in constant danger from warring tribes and deal with typhoid and malaria. 

With my neck problems and headaches, flesh would say, "You couldn't take it anywhere else. Stay where you are comfortable." I ask myself, could I sleep on a simple mat on the floor like many a poor villager would? Could I, who am concerned about eating good food and taking care of my body with healthy products, survive on whatever my poor hosts have to offer? I have a million and one questions I could ask of myself, and I am sure you could think of some hard ones for your too.

Actually, this direction of thought has been on my mind a lot lately. I have been reading in the various passages* of the gospels where Jesus says you must "forsake all" to follow Him. For a very long time, this question of what "all" is has had me thinking and praying. My Matthew Henry commentary has been by my side as I read and wonder about these passages. Yes, God must be first, but it has to be more than words, it has to be an understanding. On Mark 1:16-20, Matthew Henry says, "We must sit loose to the world, and forsake everything that is inconsistent with our duty to Christ."

Sit loose to the world...

Granted, being a missionary doesn't always have to mean far away countries and isolated villages. There are ways to serve God that may not even involve coming out of your comfort zone. Instead of bolstering your courage and passionately committing to do that uncharacteristic thing like moving to a third-world country, you could try something a little more at home. Actually, right at home. Being a missionary is about sharing the gospel, and it is about ministering. How many times have we berated ourselves for not being out there in the midst of danger when there are souls here at home than need our comfort. It is all too easy for people to reach out to help the needy and forget about the "needy" waiting for them at home. I find that this is where the rubber meets the road. I tell myself often, if you can't reflect God here at home, what makes you think you can in the field?

Somehow, the souls of strangers and bigger sacrifices come to mean more than the souls of those you know and what we consider smaller sacrifices. It gives us a surge of passion to think of what God might do through us in an out-of-the-ordinary situation, but why should He do any less through us for the people we live with? If I can't live like Christ in familiar territory, then I won't be able to in unfamiliar territory.

I realize that I have gotten a little deep. I've strayed a little from craft projects and neck pain, haven't I? If you are still with me, then I thank you. These are important matters to me and I feel like they should be equally important to my fellow Christians. In the process, I have bared my heart. I understand that not all will agree with my conclusions. Feel free to let me know what you have on your mind. 

I hope you realize that the "great" things I have spoken here are lessons that I need to learn. I constantly recall a saying that I have been unable trace it's origin, "You teach best what you most need to learn." And boy, do I have a lot to learn!

*Matthew 4:18-22, 10:37-39, 16: 24, 19:27-29; Mark 1:16-20, 8:34, 10:21,28-30; Luke 5:6-11, 9:23, 18:28-30, 14:26-33. 

Propogating Succulent Update = 9 Weeks Later

On February 27th of this year, I blogged about the first steps to propagating my succulents. You can read the post and how I got into succulents here.

In that post I showed how I took clippings from my stretched succulents with the advice from Cassidy Tuttle of Succulents and Sunshine. I was super skeptical of my progress and remained so for many weeks.

The above picture was taken four days after I had clipped the leaves off and was preparing to lay them on soil to start growing again. I had my special cactus and succulent soil, a pot with no drainage hole (not that it's a necessity) and water.

How lovely my arrangement looked! I didn't know which way I should turn them but I really didn't think it would matter in this case, so I laid them flush with the soil. Cassidy Tuttle has pictures where she has laid hers out in bread pans and other rustic looking things that really compliments the green.

Here is what they look like after 9 weeks. Kind of bad, huh? I have lost a few on the journey to trying to figure out how much sun and water they need. At first I tried to give them sunlight a few hours a day from the window but I soon realized it was scorching them. Tuttle says to water them when the soil is dry so I have been steadily misting them with a spray bottle twice a day. And yet they seem squishy, as if they are getting too much water. I am still working on that one.

After four weeks I didn't see a sign of growing. Then five weeks passed and there still was no sign. I was afraid the project was a bust. But then I noticed a tiny green leaf on one of my graptoveria and a red root on one of my sedum adolphii. I was overjoyed! After long last!

Take a closer look. Aren't they super adorable?!! My green thumb isn't lost after all! Most of the clippings that remain have either roots or leaves.

The crassula, on the other hand, remain indifferent. They don't die or rot but neither do they grow. I've wondered if they don't propagate the same way as the others. Recently I put the ends deeper in the soil instead of laying them on top but I really need to do some research instead of just guessing.

I was impatient because Tuttle said she saw signs of growth at 4 weeks and I didn't. But my youngest brother was quick to remind me that things around here always seem to take longer than experts suggest. And he was right.

However, growth seems a little slower for my parent plants. The graptoveria surprisingly has no signs of new growth, in complete opposite to the clippings. The sedum adolphii have small leaves growing from the sides and the crassula are growing from the center. They look so pitiful, though, poor things.

I've always thought the crassula resembles the split rock. Notice the gash on the upper leaf? I did that when I was cutting the top of the plant off. Terrible, isn't it? But those babies look so cute! It looks as though two new plants are coming from them. This should probably give me a clue as to how the clippings would propagate.

But all in all, I am happy to see the new growth. The "murdering" I did to the parent plants was not a waste. I can't wait to see what they will be in another few months.

Take a look at these cuties! I finally got my Hens and Chicks. Last time we were caring for our neighbor's cat I noticed he had a strawberry pot full of them, so I asked my neighbor for a cutting. It was so sweet of him! Now I don't have to buy my own, which I was putting off since funds are low.

I plan to get a few mini clay pots, paint them, and then transplant these clippings in them. If you read my last post on the Mexican Textiles Painted Pot, you will know that my first attempts at getting a pot for them kind of failed. I should have realized the pot was going to be too big. But I guess I was not thinking too well. Well, no worries, I have a pot for my tree, and can try some new designs on the pots I get for my Hens and Chicks.

That's it for an update. Have you had any experience with succulent growing? Have you tried propagating them? Share your thoughts in my comment section below!

Mexican Textiles Painted Pot | Cinco De Mayo Project

Happy Cinco de Mayo, everyone! I love a chance to celebrate, don't you?

For this weeks craft post I want to share with you my contribution to the celebration with my Mexican Textiles Painted pot. It is super simple and really only calls for measuring abilities, a steady hand (reasonably), and a few hours of focus. That, and a pot and some paint.

This craft was kind of unplanned in a way. I had a pot that I was going to use for my succulent clippings and I wanted to decorate it. So when I realized that Friday (today, that is) was Cinco de Mayo I decided to go the Mexican way.

I did some research and came up with a handful of designs that I really liked. However, I soon discovered that my new succulent clippings, Hens and Chicks that I got from my kind neighbor, wouldn't need that big of a pot. In fact, my project(s) wouldn't need that big of a pot either. I considered making a quick trip to the store for smaller pots instead but I was running out of time.

So I chose one design, the simpler one since my pot was so big, and set about making it happen.

By the way, what do you think of my four example sketches? Which would you have chosen? Easily, my favorite is the floral but I have bigger plans for that one. While we're on the topic, you might take a look at some Polish traditional flowers too. So pretty!

Here's how I figured would be best to start. I gave the pot a little clean with some cleaner and a cloth and then let it dry. Sometimes these pots can get really dirty sitting out in the garden center before you purchase them. There are times when a bird has done a number on the exact ones I wanted. But it's not a permanent problem.

To start, I took a ruler and measured 1/2 inch from the bottom. I marked it with a pencil and moved over a few inches where I did the same. I continued around the pot until I had enough guidelines in even intervals. The next layer I made 1/4 inch thick. I went on to add layers in mixed thickness until I had 10 layers. Next I used my flexible ruler (because you can't do this with a firm one) and curved it gradually to meet the first two lines along the bottom of the pot that I had marked. With my pencil, I traced the line and then worked my way around the pot again and again until I had filled in all 10 separate layers. I already had an idea of what colors I wanted to use so I marked the initials of the color I intended to use at the point I had designated as the seam.

Once again, I took to my favorite pastime of mixing paints. For the base green I chose a simple forest green. For the next color I mixed a generous amount of yellow into the forest green. The next color of green was a pale green straight from the bottle.

This was exciting and painstaking at the same time. Insuring that you stay in the lines you have drawn but not overspending your time is a balance only you can decide on. I am naturally impatient but my desire to do things right steadies me a little. This was a time when I really wanted straight lines. And yet, as you can see, I still couldn't "do-it-with-a-ruler" straight, even if I felt steady. All I can do is quote Mia Thermopolis and say, "As always, this is as good as it's going to get."

Here was the clincher. After all my research on the proper colors I knew I would need to use red. But I don't like red, and I don't like black, and if I have to use red then don't let it be against yellow. I fudged a little and orange-d down the red, as you can see in the above picture, but in the end I knew I needed some real red and even some blue. The picture above is the first conclusion. Afterward, when I had already cleaned the mess up and set it all aside, I came back with bright red and bright blue, hoping to achieve a better Mexican textile feel. I'm not really sure whether I accomplished it or not.

This is the finished pot -- greens, blue, red, yellow. What do you think? Frankly, except for the greens, these are not my preferred colors or color mixture. I love copying traditional colors for authentic themes but aside from traditional, I get pretty temperamental about color schemes. But who doesn't love a good Mexican pot or Tex-Mex theme?! Actually, it reminds me of the Mexican food we had for lunch -- yum!

Since I had decided against putting my small Hens and Chicks clippings in such a large pot I figured I could transplant my latest Dwarf Alberta Spruce in it. Alberta is getting kind of big for the one she's in but size Spruce Wayne is in, 2015's Dwarf Alberta Spruce, is still too large a size for her.

Maybe in a few weeks I'll have another post showing you my little Hens and Chicks and their specially designed pots, and Alberta in hers. I also have to do a follow up post on my succulent clippings. There's a lot to be said where they are concerned and I can't wait to share it with you!

So do you like my Mexican Textiles Painted pot? I had a lot of fun making it, trying to keep the stripes straight. I don't do tons of painting these days, though I used to paint village houses every Christmas season. It's sometimes very relaxing to run a paintbrush over an object and enjoy the clean brush strokes. It's therapeutic.

And that's it for this week! What are you doing for Cinco de Mayo? Let me know in the comments below!

Come back soon to see what else is going on at Ginger Peachy!!

Being Kind in a Cruel World | Not Just a Fairy-Tale Concept

Art by Alissa Yarbrough

As a little girl I watched Disney's animated film of Cinderella again and again until I knew all the lines by heart. Others would say I ran it in the ground, but after all, Cinderella was my hero. Or shall I say, is my hero. Like every girl I loved her story: from servant to princess, worn out clothes to ballgown, receiving no love to receiving the love of a prince. A story like this appeals to our hopes that dreams can come true, as the tagline goes, as well as encourages us that maybe after pain we can expect some reward for not losing hope.

As I grew older, and my problems matured, I began to respect Cinderella's story for more than the fancy ballgown and palace experience, I learned to respect her character. Growing up with a role model like that, kindness in the face of cruelty, however fictional the story may be, inspired me to expect greater things from myself. And yet, as the real world became all too familiar, the harder it was to employ.

We've all experienced hard times that caused us to despair. Maybe the "hard times" seem like life to you. People hurt us and leave us feeling unimportant, difficult situations only seem to get worse -- in times like these it is easy for us to laugh at the fairy-tale standards of goodness that we once held in such high regard, and bitterly conclude that real life just doesn't work that way.

Just a Fairy-tale Concept?

"For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully." (1 Peter 2:19)

There was a man who was accused of many crimes, but even though he was entirely innocent, he was eventually tried and murdered. During the trial, this man knew the truth, that jealousy prompted his accusers hate, and he knew that he was innocent of their claims. But for a greater purpose, one that his accusers couldn't fathom, he remained quiet and only responded with patience and calm.

Jesus endured ridicule, gross injustice, great physical pain, and complete rejection (1 Peter 2:22-23). He, more than anyone else, had a reason to fight for his case, to condemn in return, and what's more, he had the power to bring about true justice. But he remained silent. It's hard for us to understand this kind of behavior, isn't it?

There were many reasons why Jesus did what he did in choosing to be murdered for us and take our rightful punishment. One of them was to be an example for us, to show us how to live. He was a king who lowered himself to our status so that we could know how to do what we were called to do.

"For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps." (1 Peter 2:21, emphasis mine) 

We were called to endure!

Being kind in the face of cruelty is not easy, we all can agree on that. But God does not leave us to figure it out on our own. He has shown us how in the way he lived, all 33 years of his life. Before his death, Jesus said,

"But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away... But I say to you, love your enemies," (Matthew 5:39-42, 44). 

And he followed through with his actions every time. Every time.

What is the Result

You see, kindness to a cold heart does something unexplainable. Proverbs 25:21-22 says,

"If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for so you will heap coals of fire on his head, and the Lord will reward you."

John MacArthur says of this passage, "As metals are melted by placing fiery coals on them, so is the heart of an enemy softened by such kindness."* Who can resist a happy person? How hard it is to stay angry with someone who is treating you kindly. God calls us to do the hard and unthinkable thing because it is just the thing to shake the enemy.

Not everyone will respond to your kindness, but you can know that they will never forget it. Dr. Charles Stanley has often spoke of a time in seminary many years ago, where he was greatly annoyed by a fellow student. He said the man was always smiling and offering to help, and it annoyed him so that he would try to avoid him altogether. In the end, the man's kindness won out and the two became friends.

There are so many accounts of kindness softening the hard heart in the Bible alone, let alone the history books. And yet it's easy to miss if you aren't looking for it.

What it Looks Like Today

Many things have changed since the days of Jesus on earth. Instead of walking from town to town, we drive or fly, and make greater distances than anyone in the ancient days could have ever dreamed of. There are numerous scientific discoveries that have made life more understandable, and technical advancements that have made life easier. And yet, with all the change, the need for kindness is just as real today as it was then.

In the most recent depiction of Cinderella, the admonition to "have courage and be kind" is the backbone of the heroine's actions. It's a good thought but somewhat empty when push comes to shove. However, where the story lacks any solid reasoning for this mindset, God tells us the very same thing for a deeper, more meaningful reason, namely, to please and serve Him.

What You Get in Return

By being kind to the cruel, you not only soften hearts, but you get refreshed in return. Can you believe it? It goes against human logic to do something hard in order to be refreshed but it's nonetheless true.

"Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly of heart, and you will find rest for your souls." (Matthew 11:29)

We can apply the truth of this verse to many areas of living, but in this case, by taking on the nature of God, or literally being gentle and humble as He is, we are refreshed and reinspired. Kindness energizes us!

So how can we be more like God and respond with kindness? It's going to take some resolution but don't worry, no one gets it right immediately. Think of how you can employ this new attitude in your every day life. It may be as simple as not honking your horn at the driver who cut you off or stole your parking spot. Or maybe by holding your tongue on social media when a troll tries to pick a fight. Start with little things and work your way up. Kindness is hardly second nature, but it is a gift you can give that will give back.

So what do you think? Do you have any ideas as to how you can make a few changes toward kindness in your life? Whatever your thoughts, be sure to let me know them in the comments below!

*All scripture is take from New King James Version of the Bible
*Excerpt taken from the John MacArthur Study Bible