DIY Topiary Trees with Tiered Boxwood

What is it about spring that makes everything seem right in the world?  Dull hues of winter are quickly replaced by bright blooms and new green growth.  No matter the length of my to-do list, this season always gives me a sense of refreshment and renewal. 

birds nest

Whether it is the sight of beautiful flowers, the sound of baby birds or the cool breeze, I have decided that spring is without a doubt my favorite season.  I love to reflect this season in our home to bring inside the same fresh feeling of newness and restoration

entry way

One of my favorite ways to decorate for Spring is with boxwood balls and topiaries.  The bright green gives such a crisp contrast against spring flowers.  Boxwood is perfect to use throughout the year as they complement every season’s décor.  

small boxwoods

dining table

My favorite boxwood décor would have to be the two topiaries on my front porch that I included in my post 10 Steps to Affordable Curb Appeal.  They were such an easy DIY project and they make such an inviting statement.

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I made them at a fraction of the cost of those sold in stores and was able to make them exactly the size I wanted.  I have gotten many compliments on these topiaries and they have held up well over the past two years, even in the hot Texas sun.

finished topiary

What You Will Need:

  • Faux Boxwood balls
  • Long Branches
  • ¾ inch dowel rod
  • Wire
  • Stain
  • Decorative Pot or Urn
  • Aluminum pot – Small enough to fit in the pot/urn upside down
  • Hammer and large nail
  • Gorilla Glue
  • Scissors
  • Brush

Step 1:  Go online to find some faux boxwood balls.  The dried boxwood is very expensive and not the best option for outside.  You can find several faux options online that look very realistic.  I purchased mine at Joann’s.com when they had a 40% off sale.  I have also seem them at Hobby Lobby and consumercrafts.com.

To make a topiary that is configured like mine, you will need two 8-inch balls and one 10-inch ball but really any sizes will do.  This your opportunity to customize your topiaries to the size and style you want!

faux boxwood balls

Step 2:  Pick out a decorative pot or urn.  Ideally, you will want one that is heavy so that it is not easily blown over.

Step 3:  Find some very long straight branches and a ¾” dowel rod.  Combined together they will look just like a real boxwood stem.  If you can’t find branches, you can also use ¼ inch dowel rods at found at Home Depot.  I used branch trimmers to the larger dowel rod to …inches.  You can cut your branches about 8 inches shorter than the dowel rod.  You don’t want the branches to extend down into the aluminum pot, just the main dowel rod.

stem

I then fastened several of branches to the dowel rod with wire to make a large “stem”.  This is way more realistic looking than using one big dowel rod.  I tied wire around the stem branches underneath where each ball would go so the wire won’t be visible when it is all together.  The below picture is a side-view of the stained stem.

stem upclose.jpg

 

Step 4 :  Once you have your dowel rods or branches tied together, it is now time to stain.  I used a sample can ($2.30) of Behr’s semi-transparent deck stain in chocolate, because it is what I had on hand.  You could really use any stain or gel stain.  Ideally, you want to paint the stain on and let it be kind of streaky.  I let that dry for a couple of days.

bucket

Step 5 :  In the meantime, take your aluminum bucket and put it upside down in your decorative pot.  Use gorilla glue to glue the edges in the pot and let it dry 24 hours.

gluing bucket

Step 6 :  After the stain has dried, it’s time to make a hole for the trunk of the topiary.  I used a large nail and hammer and kept hammering holes until I had one big hole just the size of the set of sticks.  You want it to be a tight fit.

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Step 7 :  When the hole is the right size, squeeze some gorilla glue into the hole so it goes to the bottom of your pot or urn.  Stick in the trunk and make sure it is straight.  Let that dry 24 hours.  The gorilla glue expands and will hold everything in place.

glue is dried 

Step 8:  Take your boxwood balls and cut some of the net-like interior, just enough so the balls can fit tightly on the step

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One of my topiary balls was sliding down the step, so I wired some of that interior netting to the sticks.  (You’ll find most of these faux boxwood balls are hollow with an interior plastic netting that all the leaves attach to.)

You are done!

twin topiaries

Like I mentioned, boxwood topiaries are great to have around the house because they work for all seasons.  I love that they are the one decoration in the house I never have to change out.

DIY topiaries

Spring reminds me of new life but also consistency.  God tells us in Revelation 21:5 that He will make all things new one day.  Until then, we have spring’s reminder of the renewal and restoration that comes from only Him.

As God’s all about making things new, He offers us rejuvenation from life’s hardships and worries today.  Just as God cares for the birds of the air and the flowers of the field, He personally cares about your every care and concern.

“Cast all your anxiety on Him, for He cares for you.” – 1 Peter 5:7  Although seasons of life change and our lives never seem to calm down, His love never changes.  He is our true constant, the one thing we can cling to as a calm in the midst of a storm. 

What do you feel is weighing you down?  Where are you in need of renewal and a fresh start?  Know that He cares for you more than you can possibly fathom and He waits for you to bear all your worries and fears.

 

Join us for Renovated Faith’s first giveaway!

Renovated Faith is giving away TWO of these three tiered trays – one for you and one for a friend!  Check back to see how to enter!

1 peter 5 7

 

‘Til Next Time,

 

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When Anxiety Knocks and God Answers, Part 2

butterfly title

Several tools can be beneficial when you find yourself struggling with worry or anxiety.  As I mentioned in Part 1 of this post, anxiety is something we have all experienced at one time or another as it is a universal emotional.  However, it is often experienced but seldom discussed.  When you are battling with this fear, it is important to access our greatest weapon – God’s Word.  Sometimes this concept can seem too simple but overwhelming all at the same time.

Whether you have occasional worries or regularly struggle with anxiety, here are some tips that can help:

Tell Someone:

Whether it’s a best friend, a parent, your spouse or a doctor, it is important to tell someone you trust.  When I struggled a few years ago, I came to a turning point when my friend Rebecca asked me to dinner.  At Chick-fil-a one evening, I spilled it all to her – the whole awful, messy truth.    As embarrassed as I was, she completely understood and gave me good advice.  That was a big turning point for me, because my humiliation of dealing with anxiety was just creating more anxiety.

C.S. Lewis once said “Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also harder to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken.”  Telling someone else means you no longer feel you have to carry the burden alone.  God worked through her that evening to help me take an important step towards embracing His Word and the freedom only it can provide.

 

You Can’t Do It Alone:

I learned the hard way that I could not fight this battle on my own because I would lose every time.  Realizing it was not my battle to fight, my rally cry became Exodus 14:14, which says “The Lord your God will fight for you.  You need only to be still.”

My old habits of repressing these emotions and distracting myself did not deal with the real issue at hand.   I finally rested in the fact that He had to do the fighting and my job was to remain close to Him and His Word.  (Disclaimer: So many times, when I just get over my own stubbornness and embrace whatever God is telling me, I realize that it affords me so much more joy and freedom than doing things on my own.  Often, I think we associate God’s Word with the drudgery of rule-following, but really it produces just the opposite – freedom from the very things that are weighing us down.)

 

Tackle Repetitive Thoughts

This is where the rubber meets the road for overcoming fearful thoughts, because we have to put Scripture into practice. Every single time you worry or have an anxious thought, you have to extinguish it with God’s Truth.  Worry and anxiety are habitual, so it is important to stop the cycle with the only thing that really can.  Here are a few tools that will help:

Worry Box – I have noticed that anxiety is most often a side effect of not trusting God in some aspect of my life.  For example, when my daughter went through a rare autoimmune disease, I was constantly worried about the results of her next weekly blood draw.  To remedy my worry, I would take a step back and prayerfully entrust my concerns to God.  The problem occurred when not 15 minutes later, I found myself worried about the same concern all over again.

A friend helped me to see that when I prayed, I was not laying my prayers at his feet and leaving them there.   I was praying but not trusting him enough to handle the situation.   Faith means we leave our requests at his feet, not to pick them up over and over again.  I really struggled with this and the following exercise helped me immensely!

First, every single time you worry, write down that worry on a small piece of paper.  Then, write down a verse or truth that counters that fear.  In worrying about my daughter’s disease, I’d write down Jeremiah 29:11, which reminded me to rest in the truth that He loves her more than I do and He is going to take care of her.  (By the way, my daughter is in complete remission from her disease!).

Once you write down the prayer request and a verse, pray about that worry, entrusting it to God.  Then, fold up the paper and put it in a small box.  When you find yourself tempted to worry about the same concern again, remember that “it’s in the box”.  In other words, you already prayed about it and trusted it to God.   The box was nothing but a physical representation to help me remember that I already laid my request at his feet and it was not to be picked up again.   Although there was nothing spiritually significant about the box, it was a good reminder to trust God with my worries and LEAVE them with him.  (I found that a Tazo tea box taken apart and re-taped makes a great Worry Box.)

worry box

Journal Anxious Thoughts – You can apply the same concept with a journal and it’s much more convenient when you are on the go.  When you feel anxious about something, simply write down that thought and a Scripture reference before you pray.  Then you have a visual reminder that you already trusted God with that request and you have no reason to fear!

I know what you must be thinking…“Seriously?!?  Are you joking?  Do you really expect me to take the time to write down every single anxious thought I have.”  That was my immediate mental response when my friend told me to try it.  To my surprise, it worked as it helped me to be accountable to every thought.  The more I recorded my worries in order to counter them with God’s truth, the easier it got and the more freedom I experienced from worry and anxiety.

 

Control your Brain’s Background Noise

I don’t know about men, but most women think in more than one layer at a time.  For example, I can be engaged in a conversation with my mom, while my background thoughts are simultaneously engaged in worry and anxiety about a completely different topic.  God created women’s brains to be multi-faceted, because He knew we needed to be well-equipped to multitask.  However, He didn’t intend for His daughters to be immersed in fear and anxiety while going about their God-given roles.

What worked for me was to drown out those background thoughts with new thoughts.  For example, if I found myself worrying while emptying the dishwasher, I’d read over a Bible verse on an index card and say it to myself over and over again.  Another tactic was to sing a song or listen to Christian music.  While our brains are amazing, they can only be occupied with so many conscience thoughts at once.  So, I basically forced my brain to be filled with something else than worry.  It even helps mundane tasks, like emptying the dishwasher, to go much faster.

 

Surround Yourself with God’s Promises

As I mentioned in the last post, butterflies were a reminder for me of God’s promise of His overwhelming love and ability to transform me.  Because I’m often quick to forget his faithfulness, I made a couple reminders of butterflies around the house to help me remember his ability to overcome my every struggle and transform me to be more like Him.

butterfly pics

To make some DIY framed art, I spray painted some old frames with Rustoleum Universal in Satin Nickel, my favorite silver spray paint.  Then, I framed some fabric (Premiere Prints Barber Village Blue) that already had butterflies.  To make the butterflies pop, I filled them in with a navy paint pen.    Also I bought a cute frame at Michael’s for my make-up table.  I cut a piece of canvas drop cloth the same size of the frame and stuck on some self-adhesive lace butterflies I found in the scrapbook section.  Throughout the day I see these frames and I am reminded about the Lord’s immense love for me and His willingness to transform me to be more like Him.

small butterfly frame

 

Jesus’ Name

Lysa Terkeurst once wrote that one of her greatest weapons against anxiety was Jesus’ name because the word itself carries so much power.  One night I found myself with anxious thoughts swirling through my head.  No matter what I did, I couldn’t fall asleep and I tried everything!  I decided to give her advice a try and started whispering His name over and over.    The next thing I knew it was morning.  This worked for me night after night and I still do this at bedtime when I have a lot on my mind.

mason jar peony

 

Whatever you are struggling with, know that it will not last forever, that God has a plan, and He will see it to completion.  God is powerful enough to create the earth so He is surely powerful enough to overcome any fears that are weighing you down, not matter how overwhelming.   Genesis 18:14 states, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”

Until a couple years ago, I struggled with anxiety off and on from the time I was a little girl.  These are the tools that were helpful to me when I finally decided to let God fight my battle.  God gave His Word the power to overcome any anxious thought, worry or fear.   He wants nothing more to give you freedom from this stronghold.  Of course, I still have worries and fears at times, but through the power of His Word, I was finally able to rest in Him.  Turn your burdens over to Him, because He never intended you to carry them in the first place.

 

Verses about Fear and Anxiety:

Philippians 4:6-7

John 14:27

2 Timothy 1:7

1 John 4:18

Joshua 1:9

Matthew 6:34

1 Peter 5:6-7

Psalm 27:1

Isaiah 41:13-14

When Anxiety Knocks and God Answers, Part 1

fight

Few know how much I have struggled with anxiety in the past.   This secret monster seems to rear its ugly head whenever I go through a lot of change or a transition in life.   Two years ago, I went through my most horrific experience with anxiety to the point that my heart would race and I had insomnia.  Experiencing these physical side effects made me realize that it was time I fully dealt with this all-consuming emotion.    My usual coping mechanisms of distraction and repression were only making matters worse.

Within the Christian realm, anxiety is often not a fashionable topic of conversation, however, it is one of the most prevalent struggles for Christians today.  Only three months ago, I sat around my Bible study group of several strong, seemingly unshakable women and shared about my past issues with worry and anxiety.  To my dismay, over half the women in the group admitted to having severe struggles with anxiety at some point of their lives, to the point it would manifest itself in debilitating physical symptoms.  It lead me to wonder if anxiety is so prevalent among Christians, why is it often swept under the rug?

I believe there are two main answers to this question, both equally dangerous.   Often we look at “worry” as something we just all do.  In fact, it is assumed that every good mother worries.  However, the Bible is clear in saying “Do NOT worry”.  In other words, “worry is non-optional”, as it will only add trouble to our day (Matthew 6).   Unfortunately, I feel like I have down-played this sin of worry in my own life, only to allow it to spiral out of control.  John Piper once said that “The root cause of anxiety is a failure to trust all that God has promised us in Jesus”.  If we don’t trust God with the small things, we eventually open ourselves up to distrust God with the big things.  Our distrust relinquishes our thoughts and emotions to focus on ourselves and the result is inevitably fear.  The alternative is to draw near to Him, knowing that He has full control and cares for us more than we can comprehend.  This is when we can experience the peace of God that surpasses all understanding (Phil. 4:6-7).

piper

The other reason I feel the problem of anxiety often goes unaddressed is that so few people will admit they struggle with it.  When I have struggled in the past, I didn’t want others to know because I was afraid someone would think I was crazy.  I was afraid that if I told someone how much my thoughts were consumed with worry, it would discredit me and my ability to do my job properly.

Worry or anxiety left unchecked will manifest itself in an array of physical symptoms including sore muscles, headaches, insomnia, racing heartbeat and stomach issues, just to name a few.  However, what can be more detrimental is the emotional and spiritual upset that anxiety can produce.    At the very least, it will rob you from the blessings God wants you to enjoy and a steady mindset that allows you to be open to the God-given opportunities around you.   When you allow worry to go unchecked, it will inevitably snowball.

Researchers have found that when we have a thought, it makes a neurological connection in our brain.  When we think the same thought over and over again, the connection becomes deeper much like a trench that is widened with every swipe of a bulldozer.  With every repetition of the same thought, that neurological connection is stronger, especially if the thought is connected to an emotion.  Therefore, problems arise when the thought is associated with fear or anxiety.  When we worry, we think the same anxious thought over and over and the trench is made ever deeper in our brain.  With each repeating thought, the fear becomes more consuming as this thought is more prevalent and easily accessed.  Before we know it, a small worry can snowball into tremendous fear as this connection is already augmented in our brain.  This is why worry can be so difficult to overcome and why a very small (almost undetectable) thought can result in a panic attack for some.   Therefore, small worries can quickly become overwhelming if this process isn’t stopped and reversed.

To remedy this problem, psychologists suggest to think a positive thought every time the initial worry comes to mind.  This will work eventually but you have to have a positive thought for every negative thought to undo this neurological connection and “backfill the trench” completely.  For professional worriers like myself, this could take a while.

However God gave us a short cut!  God’s Word is so powerful that it is exponentially more effective than mere positive thinking. Hebrews 4:12 tells us, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”    The Bible is not simply a history book or large devotional but it is the actual inspired Word of the very creator of the Universe, who breathed life into each one of us.  So surely, it is powerful enough to help us with anxious thoughts.  When we confront Satan’s lies with God’s Word, it refills this trench much more quickly and completely until our negative thoughts are completely filled with the truth of God’s Word.  “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthian 10:5)  Isn’t it amazing that through God’s Word we take captive every anxious thought and make it obedient to Him?.  This means we don’t just harness our worries to keep them from building, but we completely transform our anxious thoughts into thoughts that honor Him.

I know what you’re thinking … “That sounds great Karin, but you have no idea how strong my fears have become.”  I’m here to tell you that I get it and I realize how horrific anxiety can be.  At times it can be like a swirling tornado of fear that you feel like you can’t escape – simply because you can’t run from your own self.   Fortunately, through relying on God and meditating on His Word, He will provide us with a way out.

When you feel a fearful thought coming on, your first step should be to go to God’s Word.  When I struggled two years ago, I summoned the courage to share about it in a Bible study group for mom’s.  To my dismay, another young mom in the group named Katy came to me afterwards and said she was struggling with the exact same thing.  She said that when we feel anxious we could stop and pray for one another and we each did just that.  She also sent me a list of verses that she had written out on cards that were especially helpful to her.  She said when she felt an anxious thought come on, she would stop and recite one of the verses on the list.  Here is the very list she emailed to me that day and now I pass them on to you:

Joshua 1:9 – Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Psalm 34:4 – I sought the Lord and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.

2 Timothy 1:7- For God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power and love and self-control.

Phil 4:6-7 – Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Jeremiah 29:11- For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Isiah 40:31 – But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

1 Thes 5:18 – Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

.Exodus 14:14 – The Lord your God will fight for you, you need only to be still.

The verse that stuck out to me most was Exodus 14:14  It made me realize that my only job was to sit at His feet and seek Him – that He would fight the battle for me.   So, when I had an anxious thought, I pulled out my verse card and read this verse, sometimes out loud.  When I couldn’t sleep at night, I repeated this verse over and over again and it helped like nothing else before.  I could see that there was power in praying God’s Word and that He was having victory over my anxiety.

What’s fascinating about this list of verses is that Katy had used this same list to combat her fearful thoughts.  She had gotten the list from another friend in our Bible study group who had used the same list for the same reason, before she passed them onto Katy.   Sharing my struggle with others made me realize I was not alone – that others had struggled as I did and came out on the other side stronger than before.    God orchestrated the situation perfectly.  He put us in the same group at various times to support each other when we needed it most.

During this time of anxiety, I grew exponentially more than any other time in my life.  The experience allowed me to realize the power of God’s Word and the depth of His love for me.  In my hour of need, He not only didn’t leave my side but He made sure I had constant reminders of His love for me.

That November, I saw a strange number of butterflies outside, which seemed odd for the beginning of winter.  Every time I went outside, one seemed to cross my path.  Whether I was driving or went outside with Morgan, they were everywhere, popping up in the times I needed a distraction the most.  When I was inside, I was still seeing butterflies at various times on TV, on a sign at store, on a thank you note, etc.   Eventually, I realized God was trying to tell me something.  God was trying to communicate that He loved me enough to transform my thoughts, just as he transforms a caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly.   I realized that this process of transforming my thoughts was just that….it was transforming me as a person.  I learned that exposure to the truth of God’s Word always results in change – transformative change that allows you to be more like Him.   When God sends His Word out, He promises it will never return void.  He always sends it out to accomplish something (Isaiah 55:11).   It was not overnight, but through this process of praying Scripture and repeating His Word in my head, I began to see a light at the end of the tunnel –  a new freedom and trust that allowed me to have a better view of His love for me.

butterfly

If you are struggling with anxiety on any level, know that you are not alone.  Feel free to email me so I can pray for you at Karin.m.peters@gmail.com.  Part 2 of this post will describe strategies to help us to hold His Word at the forefront of our minds when anxiety strikes.