take the easiest first step | encouragement

by | Dec 16, 2021 | Artistic Endeavors, crafts | 47 comments

You know that hypothetical exercise you go through every once in a while – What would I rescue from the house if there were a fire, flood, or other natural disasters?  Well, yesterday afternoon, we got to put that hypothetical exercise to the test as we were preparing for high winds and likely tornados in our area.  We’re all safe and sound this morning and spent the night snug in our basement, but there were a few tense moments when the sirens sounded and alerts were echoing on four phones.  And images of those three sisters in Kentucky, seeking shelter in their bathtub shortly before they were taken by a tornado, made me acknowledge that a good outcome isn’t certain.  My heart has been heavy for that community and those families all week, but it was even heavier as all four of us, the two kitties, and Sebastian sat in the playroom, waiting for the sirens to stop and the tornado warning to lift.  Those moments when you’re sure everything will be alright and for them, it wasn’t.  It’s just a reminder of the brevity of life.

But now, I have to laugh at myself for the things that I grabbed to take downstairs.  Level-headedness did prevail in some cases as we carried down Calvin’s diabetes supplies, the file with our passports and birth certificates, the checkbooks, my purse, bottles of water, candles, batteries, and flashlights.  I also grabbed my sketchbooks, a notebook, my computer, camera, and lenses, which all made good sense. But I have to admit to some slightly humorous impracticality as well as I grabbed some of my antique art boxes, silver dip pens, my 1920s typewriter, and an ironstone cake stand.  I knew it was a little silly and it ended up all being unnecessary, but at the moment, those are the things I wanted to save.

All of this to say that I hope you are all well and safe.  I hope we all take the time to appreciate the people and things we are blessed with.

I’m going to take a pause from the Christmas content to offer a bit of encouragement.

It’s easy to feel behind in this season.  To feel overwhelmed and like you’re not doing enough or doing it fast enough or well enough.  As I’ve been sharing decorations and crafts, I’ve read some comments from readers expressing that sentiment.  Comments like, “I need to get my act together” or “I’m just having trouble finding the motivation to get started.”

We all know that Christmas isn’t a competition or a race, but that’s easy to forget when you’re in the thick of things and you feel like you’re somehow losing.

ironstone ring mold advent wreath | miss mustard seed

First of all, I want to offer anyone who feels like that a big virtual hug.  The kind of hug that reassures.  My friend, Shaunna, put it beautifully yesterday in her Instagram post.  “This season is yours.  You have nothing to prove.  Nothing to achieve that doesn’t pull at your heart…”

I’m not sharing the things I’m doing with the intention of making anyone feel like they aren’t doing enough.  I’m sharing with the hopes of offering inspiration to those who are seeking it.  But, it’s easy to look for inspiration and inadvertently find discouragement.  While there are many upsides to our connectedness online, that is one of the downsides.

So, if you’re feeling that pull at your heart to do something, but you’re feeling overwhelmed, let me make a suggestion.  You don’t have to do it all.  You don’t have to finish.  You can just start.  Just do what you can do.  Take the easiest first step, whatever that looks like.  Maybe it’s making one batch of cookies for your family instead of dozens of tins to give to friends and neighbors.  Maybe it’s making one Christmas craft you’re really excited about and it’s just for you and your tree.  Maybe it’s just getting organized for when you’re ready to work on the project you feel pulled to.

Such was the case with embroidery for me.  I’ve been buying floss, thread, needles, and all sorts of supplies for months.  I’ve bought books for inspiration and instruction.  And I’ve even done a few projects here and there.  But, I realized I was hung up on one thing – the hanks of thread got tangled when I tried to work directly from them.  I needed to wind them onto cards or into balls, so I could use them easily.  It’s a small stumbling block, but it was still tripping me up.  It turns out, that was the easiest first step.

embroidery notebook | encouragement | miss mustard seed

So, over Thanksgiving, I took a little bit of time on a quiet afternoon and wound the hanks onto cards…

embroidery floss organization | encouragement | miss mustard seed

And I organized them in one of my cash drawers from the antique post office register I bought this fall.  And just that simple step got me ready for when I was ready.  I didn’t have to start right then, but that drawer of organized thread would be there waiting.

embroidery floss organization | encouragement | miss mustard seed

That simple first step propelled me into doing some embroidered felt ornaments and working on other little needlework projects.  It made starting a project easier.

embroidered felt ornament | miss mustard seed

So, now, I’m excited about working on other embroidery projects over the Christmas break and actually learning some real embroidery stitches beyond running and blanket stitches.  I’ve recently discovered antique sewing notebooks that schoolgirls would make as they learned their stitches in class.  I was able to buy a small set from 1902 and 1904 by Georgia Smith of the Winslow school…

antique sewing school notebook | miss mustard seed
antique sewing school notebook | miss mustard seed

There are some spectacular ones with miniature clothes and darning samples, but these books by Georgia are so sweet.  I have decided I want to make my own to learn, so I found that French General sells a kit to make one!  Of course, I’m replacing the red thread with my signature blues, but I’m excited about making it and learning.

embroidery notebook | encouragement | miss mustard seed

This is more of a personal pet project, but who knows what I might do with it.  It’s just a first step.

Speaking of embroidery, some of you asked to see the felt fox ornament I made, and here it is…

embroidered fox ornament | miss mustard seed

So, what is the easiest first step you can take to do something you feel pulled to?


  1. Babs

    The easiest first step is different for each project. For pie making, it’s making the crust and putting it in the fridge or freezer for another day’s use. For painting, it’s finding inspiration and maybe doing some value sketches. For furniture refinishing, it’s just washing the piece down and doing repairs in order to have it ready to receive the paint.

    Some days I gets lots done and some days I don’t…I always enjoy and look forward to reading Miss Mustard Seed’s blog to see what she has been doing. Some days I “borrow” some enthusiasm from her when I can’t seem to get mine going…she seems to have enough for everyone and for that, I am grateful.

    • Joelle

      Very well put! I echo your sentiment!

      • DeniseW

        This post caught me at just the right moment. I was trying to clean AND decorate the tree in the space of a few hours. Physically I’m really not able but I’ve been pushing to get it done. I sat down, read this post and realized that family will not judge me no matter how imperfect things are, so I’m taking A break. Thank you for your much appreciated advice!

        • JC

          So glad your family was well during and after the storm! Those moments truly are reminders of what really is important in life.
          I decorated early this year as the last 10 weeks my husband and I are helping to get ready to launch a new church in our area! This season hasn’t looked like the typical, but one of painting, cleaning, shampoo, mopping, and decorating our building to look warm and inviting. No small task, but so grateful God has supplied all we need and then some!! We have one more day, tomorrow, of finishing little things, then I think I’ll make some cookies before Sunday and rest.
          I love the floss grouping and your monogram.
          Enjoy the simple this Christmas.❤

    • Deanna

      Part of it for me is just the disorganization of me crafting supplies, but also there so many things I want to try that I overwhelm myself. So the first 2 things I need to do are organize and make a list of what I want to do. Love your blog and YouTube channel and Instagram site!

    • Ann C

      My first step wasn’t a craft or even a project. I recently ran into a dear woman I used to occasionally work with. We had a pleasant chat and I learned she had recently moved into my town. This week I read her husband unexpectedly passed. I, being a widow for twenty years, debated as to if it would be presumptuous of me to call on her. But I followed my gut/heart and packed some simple snacks and boxes of Kleenex into a bag and went to see her. We had a wonderful talk. Tonite she came to mind so, after arguing with myself I sent her a short text just saying she was in my thoughts & prayers. She called immediately upon receiving it. She needed to talk to someone other than her adult children. “Someone who’d been there”. I am so great full I took that first step.

  2. Carrie Williams

    Elizabeth Elliot, as she was endeavoring to continue her husband’s ministry, was famous for saying in a quiet moment to “just do the next thing”

    • Marian Parsons

      Oh, she is awesome. I love that.

    • Beverlee Lyons

      I remember this a lot, when I would not want to. I do it anyway. thank you.

    • vicki

      Love. My husband is currently in the hospital fighting C19. I am just recovering. Just do the next thing has kept me going. Thanks for the inspiration.

      • Terry

        Sending you healthful thoughts Vicki

      • olivia

        Prayers for a complete healing of your husband. I have been where you are now. I recovered from covid but my husband got covid pneumonia and was hospitalized.

      • Marian Parsons

        I hope you both are restored to full health!

  3. jinny spencer

    Why not keep a box of emergency supplies in a basement cupboard? Easier to grab kittens, medical supplies and a purse w/o a search for flashlights and water.

    • Marian Parsons

      Yes, we probably should! We’ve lived here for almost five years, though, and that’s the first time we had a serious threat,

  4. Beverlee Lyons

    Thank you, Marian, you never make a misstep when you are sharing from your heart. You are the best.

  5. Lisa

    Oh my, once again I’m feeling the need to cocoon and just sew! I remember all the patterns my grandmother had – patterns for pillow cases, dresser scarves etc! I would love the French General kit but it is sold out. I have a chunky knit sweater that I have been “doodling” on with thread!! French knots, flowers and blanket stitch on all the edges. Need to expand my stitch variety – You are such an idea giver and motivator, love your blog and the inspiration!

    • Marian Parsons

      I know, I saw that! I’ll look around to see if there are any other kits available. I started working on it last night and it is so fun!

  6. Jenny

    Where did you find the wooden floss winders?

    • Marian Parsons

      I got them from French General as well.

  7. Jenn

    I would love to know what kind of camera you use and what your settings are! Your flat lays are just pure eye candy!

    • Marian Parsons

      use a Nikon d810 and a Sigma 50mm 1.4 lens. The lens is actually a recent purchase and I love it!

  8. Julie | Home On The Hill

    We went through a similar thing early 2020, our area in Australia was ringed by bush fires continually for 6 weeks. We had many sleepless nights & days glued to the ‘fires near me app’ hoping the fires would stay away from our farm. Thankfully despite experiencing days with ash fall, choking smoke that on one occasion even caused a solar eclipse – day turning to night in minutes is something I’ll never forget – the fire didn’t impact us directly.

    But it taught us a lot about our preparedness & now this Summer I already have that experience & learning process under my belt so to speak, so I don’t need to start from scratch mentally & emotionally if it happens again. We keep a permanent emergency box now with torches, batteries, medical supplies etc etc ready to go now.

    Regards Christmas crafts this year though, I to am feeling less than enthusiastic, I haven’t even put up my trees, or a single decoration yet, I keep thinking I should but I just don’t feel inspired. So much has happened in the past 2 years – we went straight from the fires that ended in February 2020 with no emotional down time, to the virus affecting every aspect of our lives since & we had to cancel our annual Christmas party due to restrictions. 🙁 I have a Christmas craft I have been planning to blog about, so maybe this weekend I’ll take your advice Marian & just start something. I know that when I do give myself permission to just start I then most often continue on with more than I planned! 😀

    • Cathy

      You can also give yourself permission to take the year off from holiday decorating. Perhaps put out a few things that make your heart smile; an ornament, a card you saved or received. Find joy on your terms and you’ll be happier for it.

      • Marian Parsons

        Yes, I agree! Sometimes you can enjoy the season without a tree or decorations.

    • Mary

      When I am baking, I first get out all the ingredients needed, and place them in order along the baking center. Before I am finished, I mentally make sure every item has been included. When in my sewing room, I try to oil/brush out dust/check needle/cover my Bernina at the end of every project so I will be ready for the next one. When going to the grocery, I make a list, and then order my list for traveling through the grocery store. Before I go to bed, I make a list of what I will be doing the next day to keep me on task. Several years ago my embroidery floss was put into two separate embroidery boxes with little cards to wind on the floss. Each card is numbered so I know what color is being used. We live in central Florida and in 2004 we had three hurricanes hit us in a matter of a few weeks. Before the first arrived, we bought bottled water and got some important papers together. Before the second one, we bought a box to put those papers in. We still have that box, and add/subtract things as we feel necessary. The evening before the third one, we went to the theatre and, upon return, drove the car into the driveway facing the street (oak trees are likely to be toppled over, making it almost impossible to turn around when exiting.) When we decide to cruise on our boat, we make all kinds of lists, including menus and where everything is located. After all, there are no grocery stores in the middle of the Gulf. Before you judge, I am left handed, right brained. We lefties are much more likely to organize.

  9. Carole Prisk

    Your gingerbread houses inspired me, and I was contemplating making the dough. I happened on assembled kits in Wal-Mart and opted for one of them. I did buy puffy paint since you had said that worked well. I used the paint to make roof shingles and set it aside to dry.

    In the meantime, by husband decided to cut a slice of cheese for himself and bumped the house as he cut. ” Be careful, you put your hand on the house, ” I cautioned, but he looked at the white smear on his fist and licked it off before I could stop him. His face was a sight to see as his taste buds kicked in. We all had a good laugh at his expense. He’s still sputtering about why anyone would use paint on a gingerbread house instead of frosting.

    • Marian Parsons

      This made me laugh out loud. That is so funny!

  10. Patty

    I like to visit the craft stores after Christmas. Almost everything is on sale and now I have all winter to work on projects with no holiday deadlines. This is also a great time to pick up next years gifts. I just put a reminder on November calendar page as to where I stored everything, otherwise I’ll forget.

  11. Teddee Grace

    So glad you weathered the storm. We had extremely high winds most of yesterday and all last night here in the foothills of the Rockies….85 mph gusts and I read one of 100 mph was recorded in Colorado Springs. I’m going to have to redo the decor on the east end of my recessed balcony, we were without electricity for almost two hours yesterday, the electric came back on briefly then went out again, came back on but we didn’t get internet connectivity until almost 11:30 a.m. today. Easy to cope with compared to what those poor souls in the South and elsewhere are dealing with where the weather is taking its toll this holiday season.

  12. Irene Kelly

    The walls of our home are filled with all the framedembroidery that I have done over the many years. Mostly counted cross stitch but I began doing stamped pieces using French knots, blanket stitches and so much more. So glad I spent the time and money to have each professionally framed. I get so many compliments on my work. It is very hard on the eyes so don’t do it anymore. I use my sewing machine more now and treated myself to a new one few yrs ago. Each year I sew one gift for each person. This year they are bags to keep plastic bags in. And Lavender sachets which I sewed 30.Most people appreciate the time and effort I put into these projects and they help me with my mental stability ! Finding pretty fabrics that are below $50 a yard has become a challenge. Marian any suggestions on where to buy fabric similar to your former line ?

    • Marian Parsons

      That fabric was quilting fabric, so I would suggest looking at lightweight cotton.

  13. Mary Myers

    Have you ever tried counted cross stitch? I’m returning after 30 years and am loving it. Check out floss tubes videos on you tube. A new world from , from when I started.

    • Marian Parsons

      Oh yeah, I grew up in the 80s, so we did counted cross stitch in school and it was everywhere! I Still do some monograms and such now and then.

  14. PJ

    I have been enjoying embroidery of all kinds after years of not doing any. On a recent thrifting excursion, I found a kit for a Blue Onion needlepoint pillow. On yesterday’s “junk shop” trip, I found another kit for $3 that had the stretchers I need to start my project.

    You might visit this government website for advice on preparing an emergency kit. https://www.ready.gov/kit I have an old, large suitcase in the garage with supplies as well as a winter driving kit in the car. My heart goes out to all who are facing challenges this season.

  15. Jessica

    I live in southeast Louisiana and as everyone knows we were hit by hurricane Ida in August, but in the past it was Betsy, Camille and of course Katrina. My priorities were important papers and every single photograph came with us when we had to evacuate. Comically, with Camille my priority was my prom dresses!!!!! Natural disasters where life and property are threatened are so stressful. Right now in the wake of Ida, some areas are back to normal, but so many are still suffering. I pray for all who are experiencing loss. All of this has made it difficult to get into the spirit of the season and the nationwide shortages haven’t helped. Prayers are still needed.

  16. Mary S

    Hi Marion,
    Whenever I see pictures of your embroidery, I’m so over
    the moon with the “letters”you stitch. Where might I find them or something like them? My 2022 plan is to do some embroidery work and learn to knit! I appreciate your time and hope I can find something close to the letters you use. As with all things you do, yours are perfect!!


    Such a beautiful post, Marian. Christmas is such a hard time for so many people.

    Last Christmas we were not allowed to get together with family or friends and it was so hard to deal with all this. Now, this year, our province is looking at cancelling/and or limiting the size of our family gatherings due to this variance as the numbers of affected people is so high.

    These past few years have been so difficult for so many. How we look forward to a time when things will return to “almost” normal.

    This year as we gather as family for Christmas, we are reminded of our many blessings and are thankful that we have all come through the year without contacting covid. How we thank God for this.

    This year has really caused us all to realize how important the love of family is. We have always been a close family but, at times, we have taken so much for granted.

    Also, I feel that we always try to do so much for Christmas — especially baking, decorating, entertaining, etc. This year our “to do” list was not near what it has been and we have done more entertaining with family and friends in the weeks before Christmas and we have sure enjoyed this. There’s more to Christmas besides the decorating, cleaning and shopping.

    I thank you for your wonderful post. We pray you and your family will be blessed with a wonderful Christmas. Bless you all!

  18. CathyR

    I finished painting 45 Christmas cards and fell behind with an Advent Calendar I was going to paint, finish another painting left undone for months, and then clean and organize my art room. Well I found a little bookshelf at our local thrift store and that led to all the dominoes tumbling down! But I took it as a sign to clean, purge, and organize so I can create in an atmosphere more conducive to art. I’m not an organization person by nature, I tell friends I missed that gene🙃 but I’m working my way around each area and making progress. Just ‘doing the next thing’. I enjoy your posts, Marian.

  19. Olivia

    Good evening ladies from California! Thank you for this message. It hits home tonight, I’ve got all my Christmas boxes out but not even my trees 🌲 up. I gotta get outta this funk, I’m feeling guilty about it! But with all these weather issues and Covid it takes a lot out of you even if hasn’t affected you. My prayers for those who seek strength! With this special message I know tomorrow will be a good day! Merry Christmas all!

  20. Teresa C

    Thank you all for sharing your feelings and non-motivation about Christmas this year. I had SO much Christmas Spirit early this holiday season, but was frustrated becuz of so many other responsibilities that needed tended to, so couldn’t even clean, to get ready to decorate, until today and this p.m. Now,with so many hurting bcuz of those tornadoes, I just don’t have the same “energy” or inspiration about the holidays. I see now that many of you feel the same way.
    BUT, we have been praying more earnestly for the victims, made a monetary donation through our church(UMCOR) and did the Angel Tree for locals, as well. I have to remember that THOSE are the things that really make Christmas meaningful for us and we look forward to candlelight service this year! What a huge (better) difference from last year!

    So NO MORE whining or complaining about anything any more from THIS gal! Thankfulness and counting all our blessings, despite many challenges for us still. My father always would say to me, when I cried to him during tough times; “It could always be WORSE! Count your blessings!” He was SOOOOO right!

    THX again everyone for sharing, but always being upbeat; it’s contagious!
    And “THANK YOU”, Marian, for creating this safe atmosphere in this forum for us to share and encourage each other to use the gifts (creativity and willingness to share) that our Creator gave each of us that helps us cope!

    Merry Christmas!

  21. Addie

    This just may be my favorite post from you. The picture of the three little girls huddling in the bath tub is just too much to take. Such sadness for the whole town. “We” have all been through so much lately. If we can loose ourselves in doing something creative that gives us pleasure…we need to go for it!!! The laundry won’t run away or the dust collected on top of the fridge will really matter. There has been an old favorite hobby that I put away many years ago that I need to take the first steps on. There are no guarantees on how much time any of us really have…..tornado or not.

  22. Debra N.

    The easiest and most important step for me is to 1.Breathe! 2.Remember what and Who the season is about and take the time to embrace and meditate on that. I think sometimes we, as women, somehow see this time of year as some sort of competition and then beat ourselves up when we cannot do everything on that never ending to-do list and keep our sanity in check. Sometimes we just need to jump off the Christmas train, pare down a bit and enjoy the blessings that we have. It can never be perfect, because life isn’t perfect. The race for perfection takes away the joy that we already have.
    Thank you for an encouraging word that I needed to hear.

  23. Anita

    Great post Marian! I’d like to add my best suggestion for getting back on track—Turn off the TV.! For me, it is the worst time-waster there is, and a distraction, even if I’m not really interested in whatever is on. When I put some nice music on to hear, my thoughts are my own, and I can focus on whatever creative task I wish, and can accomplish an amazing amount and time just flies by. It’s so satisfying.

  24. Elise

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I tend to feel really overwhelmed this time of year, and recently realized that half of my anxiety comes from making and sending Christmas cards. I decided that this year I wasn’t going to send any and I wasn’t going to feel even a little guilty about it. It’s incredible how just doing that one simple thing has changed my whole perspective. (And you had to bring down the ironstone cake stand!!)

  25. Gloria

    I would LOVE to have the embroidery book you bought! Such a wonderful thing. My mother did the most wonderful embroidery it is so beautiful! My grandmother made a quilt for me with embroidered state flower blocks. The back part is almost as beautiful as the front. You can’t see knots or any snarls or jumps. It almost looks just like the front only in reverse. At 78 I still embroider, crochet, knit, quilt and sew. I would love to make a book like that. I cannot afford it but wonder if you can share yours with me as you learn new and do old stitches! Thank you so much for putting this idea in my brain. I wish I had started a book at age 6 when I started learning. Merry Christmas!


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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…

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