minimake: serving board!

I'm doing a few small projects with the leftover wood from the bed I built for Caitlin for Christmas. One of them was particularly fun and quick - I made a serving board for my brother Sam and his family. The board was already planed from one of the side rails of the bed, so I sanded it smooth and wiped it down with a tack cloth before applying a generous coat of teak oil. Teak oil is designed for hard woods (particularly teak - surprise!) so it seemed like a good match for the especially dense walnut I had been working with. After letting it soak in for 30 minutes, I applied a second coat and let that soak for 15 minutes before wiping the board dry with a cloth. I repeated this process for the other side of the board. The teak oil really brought out the grain of the wood and should protect the wood very well. I think the board will look quite nice with a baguette and an assortment of cheese on it. Now if only I had also given Sam a baguette and an assortment of cheese for Christmas...

A New Christmas Tradition

This Christmas, our family tried out what I think will become a new tradition - Christmas Crackers!

Christmas Crackers are a tradition in the UK which I first learned about while watching Doctor Who. A cracker looks like a tube that's twisted at the ends; when pulled, it tears open with a loud pop and several prizes come out. Last year my friend Derick gave us a set of crackers just after Christmas to use this year, so we've been looking forward to using them for a long time! Something I didn't realize until yesterday is that the crackers pop so loudly because they contain a strip of paper in the middle with some Silver Fulminate, which is highly unstable and explodes easily. Only a tiny amount is used and it's safely contained so there's no danger.

The crackers we got contained a slip of paper with lame jokes (dad-joke quality or better), a paper crown (these come in basically all crackers), and a small toy. My toy was a tiny set of bowling pins with a ball:

The pins are about 1" tall

All the crowns in our crackers were gold, though they sometimes come in different colors.

Derick also thought I looked like the Burger King mascot in my crown; I decided to take it as a compliment.

"Who wore it better?"      -Derick Lehman

"Who wore it better?"
     -Derick Lehman

It was a lot of fun to open the crackers before our Christmas meal and I think we'll continue the tradition for many years to come.

What's your favorite Christmas tradition?

Secret December Project: Building A Bed

I've told you all about one project of mine this month, and I shared the results of it a couple of days ago. But, for the past month and a half or so, I've been working on another project in secret. I couldn't share details here because it was a Christmas gift for Caitlin. Now that Christmas is over and she has her gift, I am excited to share it with you!

Secret December Project: Building A Bed

I first want to extend a big thank you to my brother-in-law Breagan, who let me use his garage/basement to prepare the pieces of this bed. He also provided plenty of tools I don't have (yet) including his planer, compound miter saw, and table saw. He also sourced the wood for me, having found a Craigslist seller who was getting rid of rough walnut for about $1 per board foot.

After selecting the boards I wanted to use, we planed them smooth and then cut them to length. On one or two boards that had some curvature only at one end we cut them short before planing. Next, we ripped them to 10" wide on the tablesaw, and I sanded the boards to make them even smoother. I then used my drill press to make holes where the boards would be bolted into the supports. This was done in two steps: first by drilling a hole just large enough for the bolt shank to fit through, and then a 3/4" wide hole about half the depth of the board thickness to allow the bolt head and washer to sit below the surface of the board.

The supports for the bed (which hold the frame together) were five 2x4's. I cut them to length, drilled a hole in the ends, and then embedded an insert nut in the ends so that the bolts could engage metal threads and tightly hold everything together. The headboard was made of three smaller boards which were planed, edge-glued together, and sanded smooth. I drilled five holes in the bottom edge of the headboard with five corresponding holes in the top edge of the frame rail at the head of the bed so that I could insert pegs to align and join the two pieces. My goal was to make it easy to disassemble the bed in case we move to another house or want to move the bed to another room.

I coated all the external faces of the frame and headboard with three coats of Minwax Polycrylic semi-gloss finish, and the inner faces got two coats each. I sanded between each coat and cleaned up the dust with a tack cloth.

The final steps before assembly were to cut some 1/2" plywood to size and to attach legs to the outermost 2x4 supports. I also attached small support rails to hold up the head- and footboard. This part is better explained visually in the gallery below, which depicts and explains the assembly process. Click any of the photos to enlarge; you can click or arrow your way through the enlarged images if you'd like. Mouse over the enlarged image to see the description.

I had a lot of fun doing this project and I'm so glad I finally get to share it. We slept on the bed for the first time last night and it didn't collapse, so we're off to a good start! I need to add a little bit more bracing for the headboard, which is currently only held in place by those five brass rods - I forgot to pick up the bracket I wanted last time I was at Lowe's. Overall I'm quite happy with how it turned out.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas! I hope that you have been able to spend it surrounded by people you love, and that you feel the nearness of our God who came to be with us. As the familiar carol reminds us: Veiled in flesh the Godhead see-- Hail the incarnate Deity! Pleased as man with man to dwell: Jesus, our Emmanuel.

In case you missed it yesterday, I completed my December project of recording O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. Tomorrow I'll share the results of my other December project, which I've been occasionally teasing but also haven't really talked about because it was a surprise Christmas gift for Caitlin.

Grace and peace to you on this Christmas day!

minimake: ornament decoration!

For the past few weeks we've had some clear glass ornaments and craft supplies available at the Help Desk for staff to decorate. I hadn't done one yet so today I picked up an ornament and some paint and set to it. The normal paints were missing so I ended up using sparkly paint.

My first step was to cover the bottom portion with blue paint and let it get mostly dry. After this I painted over the blue and about halfway up the side with white to create the effect of snow (with blue shadows below). After this had dried, I used green and painted two happy trees on the side of the ornament. I let these dry halfway and then added some white to highlight the branches with a bit of snow. The last step was to use "dimensional fabric paint" (which came in a squeeze bottle) to dot the top half with snow, accent the trees, and mark the horizon line more clearly. Here's the result:

It was a fun, quick project that I really enjoyed. Starting now I'm going to call this type of thing a 'minimake' project - something crafty or creative that is done quickly without being part of a larger project. Speaking of larger projects, I'm hoping to write out the general shape of my arrangement for O Come, O Come, Emmanuel over the next few days and get a lot of the recording done this weekend.

I'll leave you with a few more photos of the ornament:

Verse Selection

I have finalized the verses I plan to record as part of my December Project (a rendition of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel set to the traditional tune Veni Emmanuel). I especially like these verses not just for their poetic beauty, but also because they speak to many attributes of God that were exemplified in Jesus' coming to earth as a human.

The first verse speaks to the hope that Jesus brings as the physical answer to millennia of humanity longing to be reunited with the God it rejected, for the relationship to be restored on a deeply personal level. The second verse speaks to the joy we find in this restored relationship, with Jesus as the rising sun that eradicates darkness and pours life into a world ruled by death. The third verse speaks of Jesus as our protector and leader, showing us how to live and guiding us into God's love. The fourth verse again speaks of Jesus as our exemplar and ruler, the king of kings before whom all others reverently fall silent. He is the leader of his people, a just and kind ruler whose people can turn to him for wisdom and mercy in times of need.

The fifth verse is perhaps my favorite, depicting Jesus as the restorer of a fractured human race, not by homogenizing humanity but rather by eliminating our sad divisions - the differences we focus on that lead to hate, to war, to injustice. Jesus' life is filled with the removal of walls that were put in place to separate and divide people from each other. This could be its own blog post but to name a few instances I would point to his encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well, his willingness to socialize with despised tax collectors, and his public defense of the woman who had been caught in adultery (among many other examples). At this time of year, it may be cliché to point out that God came to earth as a baby, born among the animals in a smelly cave, the lowliest of births for the most exalted of men... but it all bears repeating.

God came here. The name Emmanuel even means God is with us. He lived and breathed and walked among us. He died to save us and he was resurrected from the grave in victory over death. Perhaps the wonder of Christmas resides as much in Jesus' death as in his birth, but above all this season is about celebrating one simple, mind-blowing fact: God loves us. I pray that you will feel his love this season and throughout your life.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

O Come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer
our spirits by thine advent here;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
and death's dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

O come, thou Key of David, come,
and open wide our heavenly home;
make safe the way that leads on high,
and close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

O come, thou Root of Jesse's tree,
an ensign of thy people be;
before thee rulers silent fall;
all peoples on thy mercy call.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

O come, desire of nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind;
bid thou our sad divisions cease,
and be thyself our King of Peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

Christmas Song Selection

I have decided which song I will record for Christmas this year as part of my December Project, and it is:

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.

I selected this song for a few reasons, enumerated below.

  1. It speaks to the theology of Christmas in a deep and meaningful way.
  2. The tune I'm using, Veni Emmanuel, is a beautiful and old French melody, dating from the 1400s or prior.
  3. The lyrical themes originated as early as the 800s, though the earliest recorded Latin text of the song is from 1710 (Germany).
  4. There are many widely-accepted verses, so I can choose the ones that carry the most meaning for me and include them in my recording.
  5. I was playing around on our piano today and came across a chord progression I liked - Gm6/4 moving to D major - and as I did a little more with it the melody of this song came out. It turned out to be in a key and range that was good for my voice so I felt my way through some chords for the rest of the song and settled on it as my choice.

One challenge I face with this selection is that I'm familiar with renditions of this song recorded by artists I regard very highly, including Peter Furler, Kevin Max, and David Crowder*Band - so it may be difficult not to borrow from their interpretations of the song. On the other hand, Christmas music is so widely recorded that people are used to hearing multiple artists record the same song.

I'm very much looking forward to recording O Come, O Come, Emmanuel and I look forward to sharing it with you!

Jeremy and Dayana

Yesterday I wrote about finding wins when you feel like you're losing. As part of that post I shared that a video I was working on wouldn't be done in time to include it in yesterday's blog post, which had been one of my goals.

Well, sometimes you have to go looking for wins, and sometimes the wins find you. Within 15 minutes of publishing yesterday's post, the rest of that video fell together perfectly and I was able to get it done very quickly.

Here it is:

If you want to learn more about Compassion or sponsor a child yourself, visit

"But wait," says a hypothetical reader, "didn't you just say something like a week ago about not doing these videos anymore?" To which I respond: thanks for reading! You are correct. This is my last video from the Ecuador trip and probably my last video for Epic for a while. It feels good to cleanly close one chapter in my creative journey and move on to the next one.

This brings me back to my December project: recording a Christmas song! I'm still taking suggestions at this point and will probably start the recording process on Sunday or Monday.

Thank you for joining me as I attempt to move forward as a creative. It's remarkably encouraging to know that people have been reading along (readership has ranged from 7 to 78 over the past couple of weeks) and, as I had hoped, your support has helped me continue to do things and share them with the internet.