February 24, 2014

Olympic Lessons - Part 2

Devotion for the Week...

 Another Olympics has come to an end. Did you watch? We are not a hockey family, but we watched Canada's women and then the men take gold, cheering the whole time (even though the boys kept calling the periods 'ends' after watching a few curling matches!). Even when we weren't watching specific events, we were constantly checking the medal standings to see how Canadians were doing.

Can you imagine yourself at the Olympics, about to compete? How much time and energy would you have spent getting ready for that moment? How much of yourself would you pour into your event? Wouldn't you give every ounce of skill, every bit of energy and will you could muster in pursuit of that gold medal?

Consider now how you apply yourself to the more ordinary things God has called you to do. I have always wanted to be a writer; I believe God designed me for this purpose. How often do I actually write? Before I started this blog, with its commitment to a Monday devotion, I almost never wrote anything more significant than a grocery list. All my excuses could be summed up in one word - fear. Fear I wouldn't be good enough, fear that my words wouldn't make a difference.

But God didn't call me to worry about the results of my work. Jesus said, "God's kingdom is like seed thrown on a field by a man who then goes to bed and forgets about it. The seed sprouts and grows - he has no idea how it happens" (Mark 4:26, MSG). The man can't do anything to make the seed grow except plant it. He can't coax the shoot out of the seed. He can't make it grow faster by pulling on the first speck of green that pokes out of the ground. He plants it. Whether or not it sprouts, whether or not it produces a harvest is largely out of his hands. There's only one guarantee: with no seed planted, there will be no harvest.
Weekly devotions on Christian living | DevotedQuiter.blogspot.com
My job is to be faithful, to pour myself into what God wants me to do, and to leave the rest to Him. It's just like the gymnast I wrote about last week. She throws the hoop into the air and continues on, putting all her energy into performing the next part of the routine.

I will never answer to God for how you used your gifts or for the effort you put into what He called you to do. Neither will you answer for me. We will each be "rewarded according to [our] own labor" (1 Corinthians 3:8b). Olympic gold pales in comparison to the rewards God can give.

February 22, 2014

A Bag of Scraps and a Craftsy Sale

This fabulous pile of scraps arrived in my mailbox yesterday, courtesy of Renee of Quilts of a Feather. They are some of the scraps from her The Doctor's Starry Night quilt. You should really check it out, it is amazing. As one of the winners of her giveaway, I wasn't expecting to find such big pieces in my package, so that was a great surprise. There are some truly beautiful fabrics in here, so I can't wait to get cutting and add them to my scrap quilts. Thanks Renee!
I've been experimenting with a little embroidery the past couple of days. This little flower panel is destined for a surprise project, more details to come next weekend.
 Did you know Craftsy is having a huge sale this weekend? Head on over and check out the gorgeous kits that are on sale.

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Heads up Craftsy fans...Craftsy wants to help you escape the ordinary and create the extraordinary! Enjoy up to 80% off all inspiring project kits and supplies. Shop now to find your next amazing project during the Stash Of Possibilities Sale. Hurry, offer ends at 11pm PST on February 24, 2014.

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I hope you're having a great weekend, with lots of time for stitching.

February 18, 2014

FMQ Success and a Hinderssistant

Last night I finished the quilting on my Happy Birthday banner quilt. I had to do the four friendship stars in the corners, so I Googled "fmq frienship stars" and found a lovely design within moments.

Then I started drawing it on paper to figure out the proper path for stitching. Please excuse the ghostly images in the back (I drew on both sides of the paper). The design seemed pretty simple, so I moved right onto the quilt.

The first one looks a little lopsided, mostly because I had to start in the middle of the center square, but couldn't be bothered to measure to be sure I was actually in the middle. Of course I wasn't.
By the fourth star, I had it down! I'm still enough of a newbie with fmq that I get totally excited when something turns out the way it's supposed to. I left the quilt on the kitchen table overnight so I could see the stars first thing this morning.
Today, during nap time, I finished stitching the blue hexies around my last flower, so now all 56 are ready to be assembled. It's funny to think I started this stage while we were on vacation in Florida...it doesn't look anything like Florida outside now!

Here are all 56 stacked and ready to be assembled, once the connecting pairs are sewn together. They'll be pretty quick, though, since there's only one seam to connect each pair.

I even managed to stitch the first two pairs together, so there are only about 48 left to go.
Now, lest you think this photo session was easy, let me introduce you to my 'hinderssistant' - you know, someone who is helping you but actually makes the job take longer.

This is Keeran. He's the youngest of the little ones I babysit and he hovered at my elbow for the entire photo session, finally deciding he needed the blanket I was using as a backdrop.
I straightened the blanket, moved the flowers and positioned the two connecting pairs for their close-up. Keeran did this...
 Then this...
 Then this! Doesn't he look pleased with his arrangement?
 Nathan offered to help pick them up, but wanted to spread them all out first so he could see them all. 

I link to these places.

February 17, 2014

Olympic Lessons (Part 1)

Have you been watching the excitement from Sochi? As I type this my husband is sitting in his chair watching a curling match between China and Great Britain so I can hear the cheers of the crowd. Mostly we've been watching curling, but we've seen a little of some other sports too.

In practice
My favourite Olympic sport isn't a winter one, though. I competed for about seven years as a rhythmic gymnast, so when the summer Olympics are on I watch as much of the rythmics competition as I can.
In competition during the Atlantic Summer Games 1991

I never came anywhere near even the national level of competition, but I remember the hours of practice, the feel of the equipment in my hands and the nervous thrill on the day of competition.

Watching the team competition during the Beijing Olympics I was struck by how often the equipment changes hands. Click to see the group routines from China, Spain, and Belarus. These teams consist of 5 women, each with either a hoop or a pair of clubs. As they danced, leaped and spun, each gymnast released her hoop or clubs and kept moving. She hoped her teammate would be in place to catch the equipment, but she couldn't stop to watch and make sure. The beauty of the performance came as one woman released her hoop into the air, turned and leaped to a new position to catch a pair of clubs she didn't throw.

Spreading the gospel is God's team event. Reaching even one person takes the work of many. I became a believer through the work of three international radio ministries and one small Newfoundland radio station. I will never meet most of them, but they all played a part. The person recording the message was just as important as the speaker: if the recording were garbled or damaged, how could I have heard the message?

Writing to the Corinthians, Paul acknowledged that he didn't do all of God's work himself: "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor"(1 Corinthians 3:6-8). He also said, "By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it"(1 Corinthians 3:10).

If Paul could not do everything himself, then we are free to admit it as well. Of course, we're not off the hook. Helen Keller said, "I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do." We each have a role to play in God's kingdom. One gymnast alone cannot compete in the team event, but neither can the team win if one woman stands still, refusing to do her part. God has given each of us different talents and skills for the work of spreading the gospel. If I don't do my part, something will be missing; if you don't do yours, something different will be missing.

You may think you don't have any skills or that they aren't important. If so, I urge you to read 1 Corinthians 12:12-30. Each of us, as part of the church, is an integral part of God's design. In fact, we each have many jobs. My foot not only allows me to stand upright, but also to walk, to jump and to feel sand between my toes. Each gymnast is adept at dancing, leaping, throwing and catching. All these elements woven together form her unique routine which melds perfectly with those of her teammates to create an amazing team performance.
Weekly devotions on Christian living | DevotedQuilter.blogspot.com

I am a wife, mother, daughter, friend, quilter, writer and more. All these roles make up my life, my unique contribution to God's plan. Your life touches many people mine never will. As God melds my life with yours, and every other believer's life, He is creating His team -His church-and Jesus Himself said "...and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it"(Matthew 16:18 KJV). It is up to us to step up and do our part, fulfilling our role on the team as only we can.

February 15, 2014

Craftsy Sale!

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Heads up Craftsy fans...This weekend only, it's your chance to get up to 50% off perfect matches (for Valentines Day, get it?!?) of 2 Craftsy online classes. You can bundle classes for a bigger discount! Act fast, the offer ends at 11pm PST on February 16, 2014.

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February 14, 2014

Valentine's Cookies and a Sewing Room

Yesterday I decided to try making some fancy Valentine's cookies with hearts in the middle (not the store bought ones either!). I loosely followed this tutorial, though I used my own basic sugar cookie recipe. I coloured roughly half the dough red and rolled it out thick to cut out the hearts.
 Then I stacked them up. 
 I covered them in the remaining white dough, forgetting to take a picture, and stuck the roll in the fridge for a couple of hours before slicing it up.  Here's one cookie, ready to be baked.
The end results varied widely, from this rather misshapen lump...
 to this somewhat decent heart.
I think if I try it again I will put the stacked hearts in the fridge for a while before trying to cover them with the white. They were too soft and the process of covering them just smushed their shape. They still taste good though.
 Here is my new sewing room! I had all the sections ready and had time to finish this up yesterday afternoon. I thought it would take a long time to put all those sections together, but it actually stitched up pretty quickly. There aren't many places that need to match up exactly, so there wasn't any stress to it either.
I've now finished all the And Sew On blocks I wanted for my wallhanging. Thanks to Kristy at Quiet Play for these great patterns. Now I just have to figure out what I want to use for the alternate blocks, the sashing and the borders so I can get these made into a quilt top.

I link to these places.

February 10, 2014

Teaching and Learning

Devotion for the Week...
Have you ever taught quilting, or any other skill? Teaching requires that you understand the subject yourself, and that you understand why things are done a certain way. When I have taught quilting classes, I have needed to know why 1/4" seams are important, and why quality materials make such a big difference to the finished product. I have explained why I prewash all my fabrics and why pressing before cutting those fabrics makes for more accurate cuts.

But teaching often helps you to more fully understand the subject too. A couple of years ago, Aiden and Zachary were at the point where they could pretty much tell me all the stories in all the Bible storybooks we owned. When I looked for new books, I found they just told the same stories, and it seemed like a waste of time to continue reading those types of books with them. So we moved on to reading from the real Bible, rather than a children's retelling of the Bible. Zachary is the one most likely to ask questions as we read, whether it is about the meaning of some obscure word or simply why something happened the way it did. It is eye-opening how often I have to say "I don't know," especially when it comes to customs or traditions. I usually try to look up an answer after we're done reading, so we're all learning together.

Writing to a man named Philemon, Paul wrote, "I pray that you will be active in sharing what you believe. Then you will completely understand every good thing we have in Christ" (Philemon 6). Paul is urging Philemon to tell others what he believes and why, which will in turn help him to understand for himself the full extent of what is promised to us as Christians.

How could telling others help Philemon, and us? When someone doesn't believe as you do, they often ask questions, which makes you search your understanding of the gospel to explain it to them. That helps to solidify the truth in your own mind. 

If you are going to be actively sharing with others, you may try to prepare ahead of time, so that you are ready whenever the opportunity presents itself, which means you read your Bible, spend time in prayer and pay close attention to sermons that you hear or books that you read. Hopefully it means that you also compare those sermons or books with your own understanding of the Bible so that you don't blindly follow the opinions of others. 

It is a cycle, conversation with those who do not believe, which sparks questions that send us back to the Bible to help us know the answers, which makes us better prepared for more conversations. Hopefully that leads to an understanding of Jesus' love and offer of salvation for the people we are talking with, and a deeper understanding of "every good thing we have in Christ" for us.

How about you? Are you actively sharing what you believe? Are you preparing for the questions that may come when you do share? There are benefits for those you talk with, and for you, if you speak up when presented with an opportunity to share what you believe.

February 07, 2014

February In Hand EPP Party - 6 More!

I've been working steadily on my hexie flowers and I have only 6 left needing the ring of blue hexies.
 And this one is actually more than half finished, so really it's 5 and a bit. The blue ones are all sewn onto the flower and some of them are stitched to each other.

 I have finished these 8 since the last time I posted about this project.

After the flowers are all ringed in blue, I'll need to stitch the pairs of blue hexagons that will separate the flowers and then I can start assembling them into something resembling a quilt. Whoo Hoo!

I'm wondering about the assembly process. Am I better off stitching the rows of 8 flowers, then sewing the rows to each other, or would it be better to sew the flowers in groups of four and then sew the groups together? Which way will be easiest to handle as the units get larger? As this is my first EPP project, I would love for you to tell me how you would put this together.

My parents arrive from Nova Scotia later today, then Paul and I are running away together for the weekend. How nice it will be to have a change of pace. I'd say I'll get lots of hexies sewn over the rest of Mom and Dad's visit as we'll spend hours chatting after the boys go to bed. Hopefully by the time Hydeeann of Splish Splash Stash hosts the March In Hand EPP party I'll be well on my way with the assembly of this quilt.

February 05, 2014

Compassion Trip Posts

Have you read any of the posts shared by the Compassion bloggers who just returned from their trip to Uganda? Some of them are amazing. Brianne McKoy wrote one that takes my breath away. It is certainly worth reading. Myquillan Smith's is both funny and touching. There are more. Go here if you'd like to find the rest.

The bloggers are hoping to sponsor 400 Ugandan children through their posts about the trip. As of today 354 have been sponsored. Is today the day you choose to change a child's life for the better? Sponsor a child here. After reading these blog posts, I'm even more certain that sponsorship through Compassion does "release children from poverty in Jesus' name."
Compassion Bloggers ganda Trip 2014

February 03, 2014

Why Weren't They Working?

Devotion for the Week...

Have you ever noticed that some people jump right in to help with whatever work needs to be done while others are much pickier about the work they do? Some people seem able to work with anyone while others have their 'clique' and don't want to work with anyone else.

In the book of Nehemiah, the people of Jerusalem were rebuilding the wall around the city after it had been destroyed by their enemies. Nehemiah was in charge of the project, but different groups were rebuilding the sections of the wall.

"The Fish Gate was rebuilt by the sons of Hassenaah. They laid its beams and put its doors and bolts and bars in place. Meremoth son of Uriah, the son of Hakkoz, repaired the next section. Next to him Meshullam son of Berekiah, the son of Meshezabel, made repairs, and next to him Zadok son of Baana also made repairs. The next section was repaired by the men of Tekoa, but their nobles would not put their shoulders to the work under their supervisors" (Nehemiah 3:3-5).

It seems everyone was working hard to get the job done, except the nobles of Tekoa. What was up with them? I think there are two possible reasons why they refused to work. The first possibility is they thought they shouldn't have to do it. They were the nobles after all, not exactly a group known for hard labor.

Has there ever been a time when you saw work that needed to be done, but you refused to be the one to do it? I don't mean employment here. I'm talking about the work that needs to be done for your family or your church or your community. The stuff that probably doesn't involve being paid. The stuff that doesn't require any special degrees, but does require a bit of physical labor. Do you hold back because your talents wouldn't be used, or because you don't think you're good enough at the work to be useful? Maybe you feel you won't be missed, or that you have put in your time and now you get to take it easy while a younger crowd does all the work.

The Bible is very clear that Christians are to be servants. To be ready to help and serve others at all times.  In this we follow Jesus' example and command. "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Now so with you. 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" (Matthew 20:25-28).

There's no retirement from this directive. No point at which we should say "I've been at this now for x number of years. It's time for someone else to step up and take over. I'm ready to just sit back." Maybe we can change how we serve, maybe we can change who we serve, but there should never be a time when we do not put our shoulders to the work and do our share.

The other possible reason why the nobles of Tekoa weren't working is that maybe they couldn't work under the men who were serving as supervisors. After all, verse 5 says, "their nobles would not put their shoulders to the work under their supervisors." Perhaps these were men they didn't like. Perhaps they were men they had argued with. Perhaps they thought themselves too good to let commoners tell them what to do. Whatever the reason, the nobles were unwilling to work with the supervisors.

Have you ever had someone you just couldn't work with? Someone who rubbed you the wrong way and you did everything you could to avoid them? Maybe someone you can't respect for one reason or another.

But the Bible tells us to "do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than [ourselves]. Each of [us] should look not only to [our] own interests, but also to the interests of others" (Philippians 2:3,4). Sometimes we will have to work with people we don't like, or who don't like us, but the biblical response is to suck it up and get the work done. The interests of others will be better served if we get to it and do what we can, working as pleasantly as possible with those we maybe would prefer to avoid. It's not always easy, but Paul wrote "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone" (Romans 12:18).

Where do you fall on the spectrum? Are you like the nobles of Tekoa or are you willing to get in there and get your hands dirty regardless of who else is already working?

February 02, 2014

A Landlocked Iceburg!

In early December a water pipe burst just outside of town and has been spraying water ever since. We hiked in today to see the resulting iceburg in the middle of the woods. The pictures are dark because it was late afternoon and cloudy, but this thing was really cool (pun intended)!

 It kind of looks like a smurf house with a giant chimney, doesn't it?
 We had a lazy but steady snow all day. The flash caught the snowflakes falling in some of the pictures.
 These trees are covered in ice from the wind blowing the spray onto them.
How's this for scale? Nathan is standing right beside the left side of the iceburg. He looks so tiny!