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A Bead and A PrayerFor those of you who haven’t heard, my book, A Bead and a Prayer: A Beginner’s Guide to Protestant Prayer Beads, published by Upper Room Books, has been nominated by the Christian Small Publishers Association in the Nonfiction/Christian Living category. How cool is that?!? I am so humbled and amazed by this.

The winner is chosen by the public, which means you can cast your vote by clicking here. The deadline for voting is March 31st. You can only vote once, but you don’t have to cast a vote in every category; you can vote in just one category if you prefer.

The winners will be announced some time in April. I’ll keep you posted. Thanks for your continued encouragement and support!

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The following is a reprint of a devotion I posted a few years ago:

Today is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the season of Lent.  I always love this time of year.  Well, I love it and dread it.

I love it because I recognize that it is a wonderful opportunity to focus on being disciplined – a disciple – for Christ.  To take inventory of my life and do some housecleaning: out with the old and ineffective ways of being – those things that are preventing me from being in right relationship with God; in with the new and more intentional ways of being a Christ-ian.

I dread it because it is not something that happens easily or comes naturally.  My natural tendency is to schlep away the hours watching reality t.v., eating chocolate and spending too much time on Facebook.  Lent challenges me to be aware of those natural tendencies that are keeping me from God, to confess them, and then to practice being disciplined.  In doing so, I develop a greater awareness of God’s grace in my life and the ways in which He is calling me to follow him, even to Jerusalem and Golgotha, and to the joyful Easter resurrection that follows.

This week’s prayer bead devotion is focused on that Lenten journey.  It begins with confession so that we can understand where we are currently and identify those areas in our life that are keeping us from being fully present with God.  It then gives us the opportunity to listen for what God is saying to us – the ways in which He is calling us into a greater relationship with Him, and then to name those disciplines we can take on and practice during Lent.  Finally, it reminds us to ask for God’s help, for it is only by His grace that we can take up the cross and follow Him.

Cross: In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Invitatory Bead: “After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’  And he got up, left everything, and followed him.”  (Luke 5:27 – 28, NRSV)

1st Cruciform Bead: Lord, forgive me for my sins that keep me from being your true disciple.

1st set of Week Beads: use each bead to confess your sins.

2nd Cruciform Bead: Lord, help me to listen for your call.

2nd set of Week Beads: use each bead to listen to the ways in which God is calling you to discipleship.

3rd Cruciform Bead: Lord, I commit to practicing the following disciplines during this season of Lent.

3rd set of Week Beads: use each bead to consider the discipline(s) you will practice during Lent.  Don’t feel pressured to come up with seven different disciplines – one for each bead.  Instead, you can use the beads to think about the ways you will practice even one or two disciplines.

4th Cruciform Bead: Lord, grant me the courage and grace to be your disciple and, in doing so, to know you more deeply.

4th set of Week Beads: use each bead to pray for courage and grace throughout this Lenten season.

Invitatory Bead: recite The Lord’s Prayer

Cross: In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen

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Happy Epiphany! I hope your Christmas season was filled with the joy and wonder of the birth of the Christ child!

This week’s devotion is one I wrote a few years ago. It is also included in the appendix of my book, A Bead and a Prayer: A Beginner’s Guide to Protestant Prayer Beads. I offer it here again because I think the season of Epiphany is a mystery to so many of us. Sure, we know it is about the journey of the Wise Men, but so what?!? What does that mean for our relationship with God? This devotion is designed to help us think about its meaning, particularly, how the wise men offer an example of worship of the newborn King.

Cross: In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Invitatory Bead: “When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:10 – 11, NIV)

Resurrection Bead (optional): Christ is born!

1st Cruciform Bead: Lord, you called the Magi to you, sending them a star to guide them to Bethlehem.  Help us to recognize the ways in which you call us to a relationship with you.

1st set of Week Beads: use each bead to listen for, recognize, and consider the many ways in which God calls you to a relationship with Him.

2nd Cruciform Bead: Lord, the Magi obediently and gladly followed your star to Bethlehem, fulfilling your plan for them.

2nd set of Week Beads: use each bead to consider the ways in which you can joyfully and obediently follow God’s will for you.

3rd Cruciform Bead: Lord, upon seeing your son, Jesus, the Magi fell down fell to their knees to worship him.

3rd set of Week Beads: use each bead to offer your praise and worship to God.

4th Cruciform Bead: Lord, having worshipped you, the Magi freely and joyfully offered their gifts to your son, in response to your own gift of love to the world.

4th set of Week Beads: use each bead to consider the gifts that you have to give as an offering to God, in thanks for His gift of love for you.

Resurrection Bead: Christ is born! Alleluia!

Invitatory Bead: recite The Lord’s Prayer

Cross: In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen

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Happy new year! I pray you are experiencing God’s blessings this Christmas season and have had a wonderful first day of 2014.

The year 2013 was transformative for me in so many ways. It began exactly one year ago today. As many of you know, I had written the Prayer Workshop on prayer beads for the January/February 2013 edition of The Upper Room. It was the first time that anything about prayer beads had been included in The Upper Room, and we were all curious – and a little nervous – to see the response. I remember sitting in a hotel room in San Antonio, Texas with my husband and son on January 1, 2013. Together, we watched the stats page on this blog as the number of “hits” skyrocketed over a matter of hours. Little did we know how accurately that moment would capture the spirit of 2013 for us.

In 2013 we:

  • went from 15,000 hits to 150,000 hits to our blog;
  • witnessed an avalanche of orders for prayer beads from our Etsy shop;
  • tried desperately to keep up with the phone calls, letters, emails, blog comments, Facebook posts, Tweets, etc. from people who wanted to learn more about prayer beads for Protestants;
  • failed to keep up with all the phone calls, letters, emails, blog comments, Facebook posts, Tweets, etc. (please keep trying!)
  • hired three high-school students to help us in the Studio, in addition to putting various family members to work;
  • worked with Upper Room Books to publish our first book, A Bead and a Prayer: A Beginner’s Guide to Protestant Prayer Beads;
  • received the extremely gracious response to the release of our book;
  • fielded many requests for retreats and workshops;
  • celebrated the news that Upper Room Books wants us to write a second book on prayer beads;
  • made plans for me to be able to spend more time in the Studio for 2014; and
  • (best of all!) joyously received countless testimonies from you about how the prayer beads have helped you connect or reconnect with God, return to the church, find peace, experience healing, pray with your families, etc.

As if this was not wonderful enough, 2013 was also the year in which I experienced God’s true healing from a childhood trauma. It was an answer to a long-held prayer, and the result of God’s work through The Academy for Spiritual Formation, my spiritual director, my therapist, my family and friends, and yes, the prayer beads. As a result, I am finally able to live from a place of peace, rather than from a place of fear. It is all I ever wanted. And so much more!

Thus, it is with great joy, hope, and peace that I enter into 2014. I am looking forward to seeing how God continues to guide all of us in this journey of beads and prayer. I hold you up in my prayers. May you be blessed . . .

Kristen

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If you haven’t already seen it, the September/October 2013 edition of Interpreter magazine (published by United Methodist Communications) features an article titled “Practices of the Ancients Aid Modern Prayers.” It is a wonderful article that talks about the benefits of contemplative prayer, and includes an interview with me on prayer beads.

As a follow-up to the article, The Upper Room and Interpreter magazine are offering free “Teach Us to Pray” webinars. The next two webinars are:

  • Thursday, September 26 at 7:00pm CDT: Ancient Prayer Practices – looking at the Jesus Prayer and body prayer and the use of labyrinths and Protestant prayer beads.
  • Tuesday, October 22 at 7:00pm CDT: Prayer Practices for Today – looking at intercessory prayer with The Upper Room’s Living Prayer Center, prayer journals and the prayer of examen.

To register for the FREE webinars, click here.

I will be one of the presenters for the September 26th webinar. I would love to have you join me!

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If you’ve heard me speak or read my book, you know how I got started collecting – and later making – prayer beads. But that’s not the whole story. The truth is, the prayer beads have led to the most profound moments of healing for me, addressing wounds from an early childhood trauma. That’s why I believe so strongly in their benefits to prayer, to our spiritual lives, to our lives in general.

Here is my story. It is in the form of a sermon I preached in January 2013 at The Academy for Spiritual Formation. I’ve written before about how I’m currently participating in Academy #34. It has been life-changing for me and many others. I’ll talk more about it in later posts. For now, if you are interested in knowing the story behind the prayer beads, read on . . .

“Fringe Moments: A Sermon on Abandonment and Hope”

Based on Numbers 15:37 – 41

It was a warm summer day. I know that because I was wearing my favorite Holly Hobbie halter top and matching blue shorts. And I know that because I and my friends had spent the whole afternoon playing hide-and-seek. I loved that game. I was very good at finding those hiding places that no one else could find – those super duper, totally awesome hiding places.

At some point, my friends went inside. I don’t remember why but I remember knowing that they were going to be back out pretty soon, and so I waited. I sat on the sidewalk and then lay back in the sun to look up at the clouds.

That’s when he approached me.

He was a young guy, maybe early twenties. He had blonde hair and was standing next to a bicycle. He flashed a wide smiled and said, “Hi.” “Hi,” I said. “Looks like you’re enjoying the sun,” he said. “Yep.” “Hey, I’ve got to gather some newspapers for a friend of mine and there’s a lot of them. Would you willing to help me?” he asked.

Of course I would. I loved helping people. I was always offering to help my mom. I liked feeling responsible and helpful at the same time. Even though I was seven, it made me feel older. “Sure,” I said.

And that’s how on a warm summer day, at the age of 7, I walked away with a complete stranger.

I’ll spare you the details. Suffice it to say, we didn’t pick up any newspapers.

The damage had been done. But what made it worse was that young, blonde-haired guy with the bicycle threatened me. He told me that if I told anyone about what he had done he would come back and kill me and my family. I believed him. I had no reason not to.

And so I walked back home to find my friends waiting for me. They were ready to play again, and had been wondering where I was. I didn’t tell them. Instead, I sat with my head in my hands and just stared. “What’s the matter with you?” they asked. They were confused by this sudden change in their playmate. I remember one of them saying, “She must not feel well.” I didn’t say anything. And when my mom called me in for supper, I didn’t say anything to her either. I stayed completely silent. I found a hiding place – a super duper, totally awesome hiding place deep within me – a place I knew no one would be able to find – and I buried that horrible secret.

There are no words to describe how I felt. But abandonment might be a good place to start. Here I had just been victimized. My life was shattered; my childhood, my innocence, and sense of wonder and security, instantly gone. And I had no one to comfort me. No one to weep with me. No one to tell me this wasn’t my fault. No one to seek justice on my behalf.

And where was God in all of this? Why had God allowed this to happen to me, a bright, spunky, little girl with a pixie cut and a love of Barbies and Donny Osmond? Why hadn’t God rescued me? Surely, He could have reached down and picked me up and flown me to safety. But He didn’t.

Yeah, I’d say I felt abandoned.

I know that’s how the Israelites felt out there in the desert. Sure, God had led them out of slavery and towards the Promised Land. But in between, He had left them to wander and languish in that stinking desert. They weren’t getting anywhere. They were hot and tired. Tired of sand, tired of bugs, tired of manna. How could God do this to them? How could He leave them here? Wasn’t it bad enough in Egypt? Now they had to endure wandering in the desert? They were hungry. Their kids were dying. They were battling sickness and snakes. And God was seemingly nowhere to be found.

So they began to act out. They built idols out of gold. They began to break the commandments. They complained loudly and incessantly. They even talked of going back to Egypt! Things were getting out of hand.

That’s when God decided to intervene. Not that He hadn’t before. This wasn’t the first time. Just before this passage, in chapter 6, God had taken the time to give the Israelites His blessing:

The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you;                       The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you His peace.

This had satisfied them for a while. They didn’t feel quite so abandoned. But eventually, the Israelites forgot the blessing and went back to feeling abandoned.

So God said to Moses: tell the Israelites to take the fringe on their garments and knot it and hold on to it. While they held onto it they were to remember that “I AM the Lord their God,” and to remember the commandments. Doing this, God said, would make them holy.

Now, I can assure you that if I were an Israelite who had been stranded in the desert for twenty years, and my children had known only sand and manna; if I had begun to believe that God had abandoned me; and if God had come to me and said, “here’s some fringe,” I would have said, “Really? Fringe? How in the world is that supposed to make things better?!?” I would have felt cheated.

But indeed, it was the perfect gift, as any gift from God would be. For God knew the Israelites’ limitations. He knew that no matter how much He had promised, no matter how much he had intervened, and no matter that He had taken the time to give the Israelites His personal blessing, the Israelites were human. They were in the middle of the desert. They were struggling. They were physical beings who needed something concrete to hold onto. As much as they wanted to have faith in a God they couldn’t see, there were times when they needed something tangible to hold onto and be reminded that God was with them. And fringe was everywhere. All garments at that time were made with fringe. Everyone would have access to it. Everyone could do this seemingly minor thing and be reminded that God was with them. God had never abandoned them.

In 2009 my family was vacationing in the mountains of North Carolina. We stopped for dinner at Salty Dog’s, a cheesy little seafood restaurant slash biker bar in Maggie Valley. After dinner we were walking out of the restaurant. My husband and son were ahead of me, already out the door. As I walked through the foyer I distinctly heard a voice say, “You need to make rosaries.” “Huh,” I thought. “How strange.” And I kept walking.

For the next several days, I thought about that voice. It had been so clear. And aside from the fact that it came from a biker bar, it kind of made sense. For more than twenty years, I had collected rosaries, though they never did anything more than hang on my wall. I certainly never used them to pray. In fact, I didn’t pray much at all. I think, deep down, that little seven-year-old still didn’t trust that God would really hear her prayers.

The voice kind of made sense, too, because I had a Master of Theological Studies – all of this seminary training- that I wasn’t putting to use. And I was a bit crafty. I don’t want to brag, but I can hold my own in a room full of basket weavers. Still, I’d never made a set of prayer beads.

But I decided to trust the voice. I began doing research, and that’s when I learned about Protestant prayer beads and I realized that’s what this calling was about. That led to making and selling beads and leading workshops and writing about it. You know about that part. But it also led to my relationship with The Upper Room and, specifically, Johnny Sears, who wouldn’t leave me alone until I signed up for The Academy for Spiritual Formation. Great idea, I thought. It will give me time to explore this calling.

But The Academy has ended up being so much more. For it has been here that I’ve begun to heal from that childhood trauma so long ago. Mind you, I’ve had years of therapy and worked very hard to deal with it, but here at The Academy I’ve had major breakthroughs, really profound insights that tell me I’m finally making progress. Yes, God wanted me to be here to explore this quirky calling. But the real reason was so that I would finally experience the healing that only stillness with God could bring.

I was sharing this with my husband after session #2. “How amazing,” I said, “that I thought I was going to The Academy to explore my prayer bead calling, but it’s ending up being more about my healing.” He started laughing.

“What’s so funny?” I asked.

“You don’t see it, do you?” he said

“What?” I asked.

“That voice at Salty Dog’s – the one that told you to make rosaries – that was your fringe moment. That was God reaching out to you and offering you something to hold onto so that you would know – once and for all – that He had never abandoned you. Not when you were seven, not now, not ever.”

We have all experienced periods of abandonment. We’ve suffered violence or other trauma; we’ve endured divorces or the death of a loved one; we have lost jobs, been told we are not good enough, or been rejected for who we are. No matter the form, we have all plumbed the depths of despair and wondered where God was.

But, hopefully, we have all had our fringe moments as well; those times when God’s light breaks through the darkness to remind us that He is with us. Those times when God uses ordinary, everyday objects like fringe or beads to reach us. Those times when God uses everyday, ordinary times like sitting at our desk or driving to the grocery store to get our attention. Those times when God uses everyday, ordinary people to remind us that “I AM The Lord your God.” I AM. And I AM has always been.

Take your fringe. Take your prayer beads. Take whatever you can grab onto. Let that be a reminder that God is the GREAT I AM. And know this: we are never alone. Yes, bad things happen and there is evil in the world, but God is always with us. We have never been abandoned.

Thanks be to God. Amen.

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Soooooo, my book was published. Maybe you heard. If so, you certainly didn’t hear it from this blog, given that I haven’t posted since May.

I can offer a lot of good reasons/excuses! I’ve been busy with:

  • Prayer beads! I led prayer bead workshops and signed books atThe Upper Room’s  SOULfeast and the GBOD Conference on Ministry with Children. Following the book’s release we had an increase in prayer bead orders, requests for speaking engagements, and people wanting to talk about the book and/or the beads. And we’ve been working hard to make 500 sets of chaplets for The Upper Room, which is going to sell them in a boxed set with the book for Christmas.
  • Family! My son was, of course, out of school for the summer. We stayed busy keeping him entertained and even went on a family vacation.
  • Church! I was Craft Leader for our Vacation Bible School. (Enough said?!?)
  • My other job! Prayerworks is still not my full-time job. I work part-time as Coordinator for The ADA Legacy Project. It’s a great new organization that I’ve helped to create. It’s dedicated to preserving the history of the disability rights movement; celebrating its milestones; and educating the public and future generations of advocates. If you’re curious, please check it out. Our new website will be launched next month.

Those reasons are all true and valid. But they aren’t the real reason I haven’t blogged.

The truth is that while I was thrilled – and thankful – that the book was being released, I was also just a wee bit terrified. I know that may sound a little goofy, but there you have it. The book was going to be released to the world for all to see, which left me feeling vulnerable, exposed. As we got closer to the release date my anxiety grew. I found myself avoiding the blog, social media, Etsy, etc.

I share this not because I’m looking for sympathy. Indeed, I’m doing very well. I survived the book’s release –  no lightning strikes or other calamities. I even celebrated. It really was exciting and I have been humbled by the response.

Instead, I share this in the spirit of being authentic. I want to be honest about why there’s been no activity here for several months: good, old-fashioned, common variety fear. We all deal with it, some more than others. I happen to live with a healthy (unhealthy?) dose of it. But Isaiah 41:10 (CEB) tells me, “Don’t fear, because I am with you; don’t be afraid, because I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will surely help you; I will hold you with my righteous strong hand.” And so I will not fear.

With this blog post I pledge to get back in the game. There’s so much I want to share and so many discussions to be had about prayer beads. I hope you’ll stay tuned. Don’t be afraid.

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We have had many requests to pre-order our upcoming book, A Bead and a Prayer: A Beginner’s Guide to Protestant Prayer Beads. Luckily, the good folks of The Upper Room have created a link for just that purpose! Even better, by using it you will receive 20% off the cover price! Just click here.

Thanks again for your excitement about the book! We can’t wait to see it, too!

 

 

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I was sitting in my office Monday morning when I received an email from Jeannie Crawford-Lee, Editorial Director of The Upper Room Books. The first line indicated that Phyllis Tickle had agreed to endorse the book. I immediately began to cry. I’ve been a fan of Mrs. Tickle’s work for years and love to use her books on the Divine Office for morning and evening prayer. As founding editor of the Religion Department for Publishers Weekly, she is widely recognized as one of the leading experts on religion in America and is a prolific author and speaker on prayer and religion. Having her endorsement of the book is a huge gift!

But the tears really started to flow when I read what she wrote about the book:

“A Bead and a Prayer is one of the most accessible and downright delightful books I have ever read on prayer itself, not to mention being far and away the most informative about the making and use of prayer beads. Vincent has given us a veritable treasure trove of history, practical counsel and, most important, loving instruction.” - Phyllis Tickle

Wow. Somebody hand me a tissue.

(If you want to keep up with the book’s progress,  we just created the “Our Book” page above.)

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Welcome to all of you who learned about us from The Upper Room! The response to our Prayer Workshop in the current edition has been incredible. Clearly, there is great excitement about the possibility of using beads to deepen our connection with God! We are thrilled about that!

Currently, I am attending Session #3 of The Upper Room’s Academy for Spiritual Formation and will be home tomorrow. Once I get settled and have time to get back into the studio I will write a new prayer bead devotion. I will also write some posts on the history and symbolism of the beads to help you get familiar with this new – yet ancient – prayer practice.

In the meantime, I wanted to welcome you and answer a few questions that many of you have been asking:

1. Can I purchase your prayer beads? 

Absolutely! We love to create and share our prayer bead designs, which are available for purchase at http://www.prayerworksstudio.etsy.com. However, the response from The Upper Room article has been so great that we have currently closed our website to give us time to create new designs and catch up on orders. We will reopen the site on Sunday, February 3, 2013.

For those of you who cannot wait, we certainly understand your excitement and desire to get prayer beads as soon as possible. Plus, we know that we cannot begin to meet the need for prayer beads for all of you, since we are one family who works out of our home. For that reason, we would encourage you to look at other shops and websites as well. Many Episcopal churches have gift shops that sell Anglican prayer beads, and there are many websites where you can purchase prayer beads. I would also recommend a friend and fellow artisan, Christine Stanton, who owns Prayer Bedes. I have long been a fan of her work; she has a gorgeous aesthetic and a deep faith in God.

2. Can I make my own prayer beads?

Absolutely! Making your own prayer beads is a wonderful activity! You are using the creative gifts that God has given each of us to create something meaningful and that aids your prayer life. That is all good! I have included instructions for making your own prayer beads below.

3. How do I use prayer beads?

The good news about prayer beads is there is no right or wrong way to use them! I have provided some basic information on our page, “Prayer Bead Basics.” I encourage you to review that to get familiar with the Protestant (or Anglican) prayer bead format. Also, one of the basic prayers I use when teaching people how to use prayer beads is called “The Full Circle Prayer.”

Along the right side bar of this blog is a list of categories for our blog posts. All of the ones that begin with “Dev” are devotions I have written for use with prayer beads. I encourage you to browse through them to get a sense of the myriad ways you can use beads in prayer.

Again, I will write more when I return home, but for now, I want to welcome you. I am thrilled that you are interested in learning new ways to be with God.

Peace, Kristen

Instructions for Assembling Your Prayer Beads

Materials Needed

  1. 5 large Cruciform beads
  2. 29 medium Week beads
  3. 36 small seed beads
  4. 1 cross
  5. 2 crimp tubes
  6. about 2′ of wire (I recommend 49-strand, .19 or .18″)

Tools Required

  1. 1 pair of chain-nosed pliers
  2. 1 set of wire cutters

Instructions

  1. Place one crimp tube on the wire.
  2. Thread the wire through the cross
  3. Fold about 1″ of wire back towards the cross and through the crimp tube (the crimp tube should now be up against the cross, with one long wire and the 1″ of wire both coming out of it)
  4. Use the pliers to flatten the crimp tube
  5. String the beads in the following order, taking them all the way down so that the first bead is lined up against the crimp tube that sits above the cross (note: make sure the beads cover both of the wires—the primary wire and the extra piece that extends from the top of the cross):
    1. 1 seed bead
    2. 1 Cruciform bead
    3. 1 seed bead
    4. 1 Week bead (optional)
    5. 1 seed bead (optional)
    6. 1 Cruciform bead
    7. 1 seed bead
  6. String the second crimp tube
  7. String the following beads:
    1. 1 seed bead
    2. 1 Week bead
    3. Repeat steps a and b 6 more times
    4. 1 seed bead
    5. 1 Cruciform bead
    6. Repeat steps a to e 2 more times
    7. Repeat steps a and b 7 more times
    8. 1 seed bead
  8. Take the end of the wire and thread it back through the crimp tube that was added in Step 6 (the wire will be heading back towards the cross).  Thread it through the crimp tube, the seed bead, the Cruciform bead, the seed bead, and the Week bead so that it comes out from the bottom of the Week bead.
  9. Pull the wire tightly, adjusting the beads as necessary to remove any slack in the wire and to ensure that the wire is completely covered up by the beads.
  10. Using a pair of flat-nosed pliers, smash the crimp tube as tightly as possible.
  11. Using a set of wire cutters, cut the remaining wire off as close to the beads as possible.
  12. Enjoy your beads!  Blessings!

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