September 30, 2013

Devotion for the Week...

The last assignment for Compassion International's Blog Month asks bloggers to respond to one of two prompts. I have chosen the following quote:

"Poverty is not necessarily an issue to solve; it is an opportunity to serve. As we go through each day, our heart's cry should be, Lord, where would you have me give, serve, and invest myself to bring hope to the poor?"
~Orphan Justice author, Johnny Carr

The first thing I thought of when I read this was Jesus saying, "The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them anytime you want" (Mark 14:7). To put this into context, a woman had just poured very expensive perfume over Jesus' feet, which prompted Judas to rebuke her, saying it was a waste and the perfume should have been sold and the money given to the poor. Jesus corrects him, saying the poor can be helped any time, but this woman has done this to prepare Him for His burial (see Mark 14: 1-9). So, Jesus tells us point blank that the issue of poverty will never end. The poor will always be with us.

What should our response be to this issue? It can often seem so overwhelming that we don't even know where to begin. After all, I can't help everyone.Neither can you.

What does the Bible teach on this issue?

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world" (James 1:27)

God is described as "a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows" (Psalm 68:5).

"When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God" (Leviticus 19:9-10).

God clearly cares about helping the poor. This is even more apparent in Jesus' discussion of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25:31-46. The people will be separated, He says, "as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats" (Matthew 25:32), with the sheep on His right and the goats on His left.

"Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'" (vv. 34-36). When asked when they did these things, Jesus answers, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." (v. 40)

To those on His left, He will say, "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." (v. 41) and "I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me" (v. 45)

Jesus identifies Himself with the poor. He says that our response to those in need is actually our response to Him. This is a sobering thought. Do we serve the poor, the needy and the lonely the way we would treat Jesus Himself if we knew of a need in His life?

No, I can't help everyone on my own. You can't. Poverty is just too big an issue. But Jesus doesn't say the rewards will go to those who help everyone. He commends those who have helped even "one of the least of these brothers of mine." 

Surely we can help one.

And then, when we find that helping one is actually not so hard, perhaps we can help another, and then maybe even another.

Would you like to sponsor a child through Compassion as the one you help today? Click here to make a difference for a child and his or her family.

September 25, 2013

WIP Wednesday - Wool Applique

I attended a wool applique workshop on Saturday, which was a lot of fun. I had never worked with wool before and found it to be wonderfully soft.

It was great to spend a good chunk of the day with fellow stitchers and just quietly hand stitch away.

The pattern came from this book by Jeanne Large and Shelley Wicks, which has several other patterns I'd like to make, including the beautiful cover quilt. Just add them to the never-ending list!

The class sample was stitched into a pillow, but we're really not a throw pillow sort of family. It would end up thrown on the floor rather than decoratively placed on the furniture. In the book it is framed, as in picture frame, and I think that's what I'm going to do with mine. So now the hunt is on for a suitable frame.



I even won a book at the workshop!  This one is edited by Jeanne Stauffer and Sandra L. Hatch. Again, there are a couple of projects to add to my someday list. I don't understand how people can ever be bored...there are always quilts I can be working on when I have a spare moment.            

I've registered for Quilting Gallery's  Fall Mug Rug Swap. This is my first ever swap and I can't wait to find out who my swap partner will be. There are over 20 countries represented in the swap, so my little mug rugs could be traveling far from home.

September 23, 2013

What we Lack

Devotion for the week...

In my efforts to learn free-motion quilting, I have taken 4 Craftsy classes, and I'm signed up for another I haven't yet watched. I've also watched episodes of Quilt it! The Longarm Quilting Show on QNNTV (even though I don't have a longarm) and many of Leah Day's demonstrations of her designs. Seeing the designs emerge effortlessly as these women work is amazing and inspiring. Someday, with much practice, I hope to be good at FMQ.

My husband, Paul, has learned to do a lot of home renovations the last couple of years. Some he has learned through talking with his father or my father, but many of his new skills have come from watching YouTube videos.

We have both said, "How did people learn anything without the internet?!" If we find we lack the skills for something we want to do, a quick search online will usually connect us to someone who has those skills.

In the Bible, James has advice for those who are lacking wisdom. He wrote, "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him." (James 1:5) My dictionary describes wisdom as "the quality of being wise." Wise is "having or showing experience, knowledge, and good judgement."

This verse follows a passage where James tells believers that trials will come, but that the testing of our faith through these trials can make us "mature and complete, not lacking anything." (v. 4) If you are in the midst of a difficult situation and you just don't know how to handle it, ask for wisdom. Ask God to give you the knowledge and good judgement you need for whatever you face and He will give it.

Not only will He give it, James says, He gives generously and without finding fault. He will give wisdom for today, and tomorrow and as many times as you ask, without thinking you shouldn't be asking again or that you should be able to figure this situation out for yourself by now. No, our God gives wisdom generously and without finding fault to those who ask and believe.

James stresses the importance of belief in the next verses: "But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does." (vv. 6-8) Asking without believing is pointless, he says. We have to have faith that God will give us the wisdom we need for every situation, as many times as we ask for it.

While I could struggle along at my sewing machine, trying to create beautiful FMQ designs without instruction from others, I probably wouldn't do a very good job. The same is true when we are faced with problems. We can try to muddle through with only what we know and what we think is best, but we'll probably make a mess of things. Asking God for how He would have us handle our situations will bring about a much better result.

September 19, 2013

September Sugar Block Club

Well, not much sewing has been happening here lately. All last week I was getting ready to go away for the weekend to a Women's Ministries retreat with my mother-in-law and sisters-in-law. It was a fantastic weekend and it's always wonderful to spend time together. Then, when I came home, my parents were here from Nova Scotia (actually, they arrived the same day I left for the retreat!) so we were visiting and having a great time together. Paul and my dad even tore down a row of upper cupboards that used to divide our kitchen and dining room. What a big difference that made!

 Last night I stitched together my September block for the Sugar Block Club. I love it! It feels so calm and soothing. It's hard to believe there are only 3 blocks left.

Since I was chain piecing the units for the block, I also assembled a few more leader/ender 4-patch blocks. I now have 91. Slowly but surely I'll have enough for a quilt, all while working on other things! Do you use Bonnie Hunter's leader/ender method?
21 new scrappy 4-patches
I even managed to do a little work on Mom's Christmas present. I had hoped to have it finished before she got here so she could take it home with her, but I'm not even close. Oh well, at least Christmas is still 96 days away!

It sure feels good to have spent a little time at my machine again. I'm linking up today with Kelly at Needle and Thread Thursday.

September 16, 2013

One Way

Devotion for the Week...

I would love to learn to knit. Every now and then I see a pattern for a beautiful knit project and I consider taking it up. I think I'd enjoy it. I love working by hand, after all, and yarn is so beautiful. But then I remember that I already don't have enough time for all the quilts I want to make. I'd be crazy to add a whole new obsession.

I can't even remember when I started this
It will someday look like this

I have done cross stitch, but it has been a long time since I really focused on it. This Teresa Wentzler design has been a work-in-progress for so long I think I need to designate it a UFO. 

There are so many ways to express our creativity! Though I mainly stick to quilting, I am in awe of people who can successfully pursue multiple crafts, actually finishing projects in each of them. I enjoy seeing creations done by those who knit, crochet, cross stitch, embroider or whatever it may be.

There are some who would say there are also many ways to reach God; that all religions are just different paths to Heaven. I don't believe that is true. The Bible is clear, Jesus is "the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through [Him]." (John 14:6) Belief in Jesus as the Son of God, the sacrifice who took the punishment for each and every believer's sins is the only way to have a relationship with God and to one day enter heaven.

"Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God - children born not of natural descent , nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God. " (John 1:12, 13)

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)

By 'belief' I don't mean simply hearing about Jesus and enjoying the story. I don't mean celebrating Christmas and knowing all the words to 'Silent Night' or 'Away in a Manger.' I don't even mean going to church every Sunday.

This belief goes deeper then the head and lodges in the heart. It requires not only an acceptance of Jesus (as real, as Savior), but also an acceptance of ourselves as sinners, as incapable of achieving righteousness on our own and, therefore, as people in need of a Savior. Only when we accept the facts about both Jesus and ourselves can we then follow the instructions Peter gave to the crowd on the day of Pentecost: "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins." (Acts 2:38)

There is only one way, and that way is Jesus.

September 13, 2013

3 Things About 1 Word

September is Compassion International's Blog Month. Their goal is to have 3,160 children sponsored this month. Click here to sponsor a child.

This week's writing assignment is to write three things about one word. I chose the word sacrifice.

1. If you are a parent, you know what it is to sacrifice for your children. We sacrifice sleep and free time, we sacrifice financially to give them what they need and want. Really, we sacrifice in any way we deem necessary to give them the life we want them to have.

But I have never had to sacrifice my own meals so my boys could eat. My family eats three meals every day (plus snacks). I don't know how it feels to be hungry while I watch my children eat all the food we have, knowing there is not enough for all of us. Too many parents around the world do have to make that sacrifice for their children.

2. Our consumer culture doesn't encourage sacrifice for others, but God does. The world around us urges us to make sure we have the latest of everything - phones, tablets, cars, clothes, even fabric lines and toys. All of which means spending money on ourselves and feeling like we should be buying more and more and more. But God tells us to take care of widows and orphans (James 1:27) and to consider others better than ourselves, looking not only after ourselves but also looking after others ( Philippians 2: 3,4). John the Baptist even said in Luke 3: 11 that is someone has two tunics then they should give one to a person who has no tunic, "and the one who has food should do the same"!

3. A sacrifice made for someone else is an expression of love. Whether I am sacrificing sewing time to do homework with Nathan or you are giving up a Saturday to help a friend move, our actions reveal our feelings for that person. Jesus' sacrifice for us is even more profoundly an expression of love. Jesus left Heaven, lived as a man on earth and died an agonizing death, all for our benefit. Because He was willing to be the sacrifice to atone for my sins, your sins and those of anyone who believes, we have been given His righteousness and the hope of eternal life with Him. What an amazing, sacrificial expression of love.

Sponsoring a child is a sacrifice of $38 a month. For some, that's just not possible. For others, sponsoring several children at once is possible. Only you can know. If you can make that sacrifice of love, go here  and help change the life of a child and their family.

September 09, 2013

All Things

In 2011 Quiltmaker magazine published Debbie Caffrey's Secret Window mystery quilt. The pattern appeared in three issues, beginning with the fabric requirements and the instructions for the first four blocks. The second issue added pieces to one of the blocks along with two new blocks and the last issue revealed how everything fit together.

My Secret Window quilt
I had never done a mystery quilt before so I decided to try this one. I took that first issue to my local quilt shop and started picking out my fabrics. It took forever! I knew how many fabrics I needed, and how much of each one, but I had no idea which would become a focal point or which two would need a lot of contrast because they would be next to each other. I could guess some things, like that fabric #8 would probably be used for the border because the pattern said a large scale print would work and because I needed more of that fabric than of any other. Knowing very little about the pattern made choosing difficult, but it also made it fun as I looked forward to seeing how the fabrics were used.
My fabric #8 - I was right, it is the border!

I have a friend who has made a couple of quilts and finds she always has trouble choosing her colours, even with the pattern to guide her. She just can't see the big picture, she says. She can't envision how the bolts of fabric will work together after they're cut and pieced.

My quilt-holding, servant hearted Aiden

Not seeing how things will work together can be a problem in our lives as well. We can't see the big picture, how it will all look in the end, so we don't know how God will use the events of our lives. Romans 8:28 is a famous promise, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." It may be tempting to read this and think 'everything will go my way from now on,' but that isn't what the verse says. It doesn't say all things will be good. It says all things will work together to produce some God-designed good. For example, a chronic illness isn't good, but if it forces a woman to rely on God daily for strength, then that close relationship with God is for her good.

Most of the time when people look at this verse they focus on the big things we can't understand, like illness, loss or financial difficulties. We can't see how God will use these things for our good, but this verse promises us that He will. I think, though, that we often overlook the little, everyday frustrations that fall also under the heading of 'all things' He uses for our good.

As any mother can understand, there are plenty of times when I want to enjoy some quiet time, but one of the boys needs help with something or supper needs to be made because little bellies need to eat on time. I confess I sometimes get frustrated and whine, even if it's only in my head. These little moments aren't a major life event, but God can use them for my good, if only I pay attention.

After John and James' mother asked that her sons be granted a place of honour, the other disciples were "indignant with the two brothers." (Matthew 20:24) Jesus corrected them all, saying, "Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave - just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (vv. 26-28) So, if Jesus didn't expect to be served, but instead came to do the serving, I can be sure my grumbling attitude needs some adjusting. Being mom certainly provides me with lots of opportunities to refine my servant heart!

What about you? What circumstances in your life offer you the chance to better conform yourself to the image of Jesus? It could be something big, like a job search that feels like it's getting nowhere, or it could be something much smaller, like the frequent demands on any parent. What character trait could this circumstance be an opportunity to improve? Identifying the possible positive outcome of our circumstances won't always mean we respond with the right reaction, but it will make us more aware of those negative responses and that's the first step to getting it right next time.

September 06, 2013

What I Would Say

Compassion International has declared September to be 'Blog Month.' Those of us in Compassion's Blogger Network will be posting weekly to bring attention to this wonderful organization. The goal is to see 3,160 children sponsored this month.

To join Compassion's Blogger Network, click here.

To sponsor a child, releasing him or her from poverty in Jesus' name, click here or use the link on the right.

This week's writing assignment asked, "What do you know now that you wish you could tell your childhood self?"

My answer is, "Trust your voice. Believe in what you have to offer." Of course, like so much advice, I still have trouble doing this even at 36.

I've wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. As a little kid I had it all worked out - I'd be a writer and my brother would be my publisher. He didn't follow through on his end of things though, which is why I don't have a book out yet. Thanks Adam!
Actually, I don't have a book out because of fear. For years I spent hours and hours writing, but rarely ever finished anything. Gradually I wrote less and less, until I was doing almost none at all. It took me a long time to realize I was afraid my writing wouldn't be good enough and no one would be interested in what I had to say. I would abandon projects in part because an unfinished piece can't be judged. It can't be a failure.

It can't be a success, either.

I felt stuck, believing God gave me this desire to write but unable to move forward because of my fear, when I hit on the idea of  a blog. Committing to posting a weekly devotion means I have to finish a piece every week because my readers are expecting to see something from me every Monday morning. Sure, I may be imagining that expectation on your part, but it's been working for me so far!

I still struggle with trusting in my writing, but there has been so much positive feedback since I started blogging. I love all the comments from family, friends and even people I've never met who read my blog. I hadn't imagined how fun it would be to make new friends all around the world, even if I don't get to meet you face to face. Thanks to all the encouragement you have given me, I am beginning to feel a little more comfortable. Not that I think I'm a great writer yet, but at least I feel that sometimes my devotions make people think about their lives or their faith.

So, to my younger self and to any of you who wonder about your own contribution in any way, I say "Trust in yourself. You may not be perfect, but start where you are and go from there!"

3, 160 new sponsorships may seem like a lot for one month, but with your help we can do it. Sponsor a child today!

September 04, 2013

First Day of School!

I am now the proud mama of three school-age boys! Nathan had his first day of kindergarten today, while Zachary went into grade 4 and Aiden is in grade 6. Hard to believe how quickly they grow up.

Nathan was so, so excited about starting school and thought coming home on the bus was a lot of fun. Here's hoping he always feels that way.

Of course, having all three of mine at school does not mean I am home alone with my sewing machine. I started back into my regular routine too, babysitting for two moms who are teachers. That makes for a great schedule for me considering Paul is also a teacher. When he's off, I'm off.

So, while my boys are in school, I have a 3 year old, a 2 year old and a 10 month old to keep me from being bored. I can assure you, there's never a dull moment in my house. Now if only I can keep them all from eating the crayons!

September 02, 2013

Pass it On

Devotion for the Week...

My great-grandfather came to Canada with his family from Lebanon when he was young, so my grandmother grew up eating lots of traditional Lebanese foods. She still makes some of them, but the only one I really like to eat is something we grew up calling flat tires. I'm sure that's a mangled version of their proper name, but I don't know what that proper name would be. I do know they are delicious.
Flat tires fresh from the oven! I made 9 dozen today.
The filling is ground beef, tomatoes, onions and spices and it is wrapped in bread dough.
They are so delicious, in fact, that when I got married and moved too far away to have access to Nanny's flat tires, I had to learn to make my own. They take a lot of time, but I love having them in my freezer for quick and simply meals when I don't really want to cook. Zachary likes taking them to school for lunch. Nanny passed on the making of flat tires to me because it was something she did that I wanted to be able to do too.

I hope my faith will appeal to others in the same way.

Writing to Timothy, Paul said, "I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also" (2 Timothy 1:5). Nowhere does Paul tell us what these two women did to pass on their faith to Timothy. So how did they do it? How can we pass on our faith to others?

If you think about how to pass on a love for anything, be it for a particular food (like flat tires) or a hobby (like quilting or reading), there are similarities. Most importantly, you have to love it for yourself first. Nanny still makes flat tires often, and she makes 13 or so dozen at a time. She even makes them to sell. I've never heard her complain about making them, or saying she wished she didn't have to make them. Seeing her do it so often, and hearing her say how easy it is, made me willing to try it for myself. That was the beginning of my flat tire making.

Paul says the faith first lived in Lois and Eunice. They had a deep faith that permeated their entire lives. Do we have that sort of faith, a faith that lives in us? Or is our faith only superficial, more a matter of saying we believe, but not allowing that belief to take over our lives?

Paul also described their faith as 'sincere.' This makes me think their words and their actions matched up. They didn't only talk about the importance of loving and serving others, they loved and served whenever the opportunity arose. They taught Timothy to love Jesus and to desire to live in a manner pleasing to God by loving Jesus themselves and by trying to please Him in all aspects of their lives.

Is our faith sincere? Do we live according to what we say we believe? This can be a difficult question to answer. After all, I don't think hypocrites often see themselves as hypocrites. I don't want to be a hypocrite. Not only because a hypocritical faith won't be picked up by anyone, but also for myself. I want to follow Jesus sincerely, living for Him with all my heart.

Hopefully, as we try to live out a deep and sincere faith in Jesus, others will want that same faith to live in them.