June 29, 2015

Public Figure

Devotion for the Week...

Years before an American election happens, there is speculation about who will run for president. I'm not even American, but I still heard the news the very day that Hilary Clinton officially said she would be running, after several years of speculation about whether or not she would. What amuses me is that these announcements are themselves announced ahead of time, as in "There's a big announcement coming from so-and-so at 1pm today," so that all the major newscasters can be ready to cover the actual  announcement. Even those who are already well known do everything they can to maximize their media exposure.

If you are not so well known, then getting noticed can be very difficult. You have to work hard at finding those photo ops that will get your name into the news...for good reasons and not because you've messed up. You have to be out there, shaking hands, meeting people, taking selfies with supporters. Without being known and gaining approval, without the support of voters who like them, politicians are out of a job.

Interestingly, Jesus' brothers had the same idea. They told Him, "Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world" (John 7: 3,4). Get out there. Be seen. Show everyone what you can do so they will know all about you. 

But that wasn't Jesus' plan. He wasn't out to win a popularity contest, or to gain a large crowd of followers. Yes, He did a lot of things in public, and a lot of things that were noticed by the crowds, but He wasn't doing them with the goal of gaining popularity. In fact, He sometimes healed people, then told them "See that you don’t tell anyone" (Matthew 8:4). Can you imagine being completely healed of some terrible disease and then being told not to tell anyone how it had happened? I find it hard to imagine anyone today healing people and not wanting to take credit for it.

Jesus was often followed by crowds of people, people who wanted to hear Him teach or receive healing, but I don't find Him sending out announcements of where He would be ahead of time to make sure the crowd grew as much as possible before He arrived. In fact, He often tried to sneak away to quiet places to pray or to spend time teaching His disciples, but the crowds followed Him anyway because He was different. His healings and the authority with which He taught were so different from what people were used to that they sought Him out. Though He didn't make a special effort to draw the crowds, God worked through Him to reach many people.

Of course, not everyone liked Jesus. The very things that made Him liked by the ordinary people were the same things that turned the religious leaders against Him. Once, after Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath, "the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus" (Mark 3:6) because He went against their teaching. Though it would eventually lead to His death, Jesus didn't avoid the things that upset the religious leaders. He didn't seek to gain their approval or change His message to make it more appealing to them.

The question, then, is: Who are we imitating? Do we, like the politicians, seek out every opportunity to be noticed, to increase our popularity and have the approval of the most possible people? Or are we content to let God take care of the results?

June 24, 2015

EPP Stars

I had a really sore neck last week, which kept me from sewing anything at all. It's getting better, finally, so yesterday I tried quilting the wedding quilt I'm working on...I only worked on it for 15 minutes before I felt my neck start tensing up again. That was the end of that. So, there's not much progress to share on that project.

I have been doing a bit of EPP work lately while we've been traveling to appointments or to visit family, though, so it hasn't been a total sewing bust. Since I last shared these stars, I've finished 8 more.
 This is my favourite of the new stars. I just love those blue flowers!
 I used one of my stars to make a pincushion, so my total is now 24 stars.
I still have no actual plan for what I'll do with them. I know I want to connect them with a solid colour, probably grey, so I'm only using prints for the stars. Mostly I just enjoy stitching them while we're on the road, so I'll keep going until I feel like I have enough. Judging by how slowly I'm finishing them, that could be a while. With school ending in two more days (and babysitting ending too!) I'm looking forward to camping trips, hiking and just generally relaxing, which will probably include a few more stars.

June 22, 2015

Running for Joy

Devotion for the Week...

Happy Father's Day to any fathers reading this week! I feel like my Monday devotions are often a little behind the times, since there are so many Sunday holidays that I want to touch on here (Easter, Mother's Day, Father's Day, advent), but I don't want to write about them 6 days in advance. Somehow a day late feels more normal than 6 days early :)

The Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) really resonates with most people, I think, because we've all been the one who wandered away and got into trouble at some point in our lives. It's an easy story to understand, too. Son takes his inheritance money, leaves home, spends all the money stupidly, realizes how stupid he has been and comes home feeling unworthy to be called a son. Father forgives him completely and celebrates his return. Since it's a parable, we then have to look at the meaning, which is also easy to understand. We are the stupid, wandering child and God is the forgiving Father who welcomes us back home and celebrates our return. It's the perfect Father's Day story!

There's an element of Jesus' story that we can miss, though, because of the cultural differences between our day and His day. By verse 20 of the parable, the son is returning home to ask for work as a servant since he is no longer worthy to be called a son, "But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him." 

It seems perfectly natural, doesn't it? The story is set in an era long before cell phones and text messages. Whenever we leave family to head home (a drive of several hours no matter who we've been visiting), we're always reminded to text as soon as we get home so they'll know we made it safely. Back then, though, communication would have been pretty much non-existent, especially considering the son left home and "squandered his wealth in wild living" (v 13) in a distant country. The father hasn't heard anything about his son's well-being since he left home. We don't know how long that has been, but the son had time to spend all his money, then to hire himself out to work, and then finally to return home again. The father has been waiting for news for a while and he's anxious about his son, wondering if he's okay.

You know how you can recognize some people by the way they walk, or the way they carry themselves? Well, this dad saw his son when he was still a long way off and he recognized him right away, despite the ragged clothes. Probably excited and relieved, the father runs to his son. This is where the cultural difference trips us up. Grown men didn't run in Jesus' day. It was considered beneath their dignity. This father, by running to embrace his wayward son, was embarrassing himself completely in front of anyone who saw him. But at that moment, the father didn't care about his dignity, or who was watching, or what they would think. His son was home!

Of course, it's only a parable, so this never actually happened as Jesus tells it. But as I said earlier, there's a spiritual meaning here. And if the father in the story represents God, our heavenly Father, then what does the running mean? I think it is all about the father's emotion. Can't you just feel his joy as he runs to his son?

The parable of the prodigal son is one of three stories Jesus told about people who lost something valuable (a sheep and a coin were the other lost things), and in all three stories the emphasis is on the joy when the lost thing is found. The father in the story doesn't simply wait for the son to come to him, nor does he calmly shake his hand, both of which would have been more in keeping with societal norms. He doesn't even wait to find out what his son has been doing all the time he's been away, or why he looks so ragged. No, the father is so overcome with emotion that he runs to greet his son, throwing all thoughts of everyone's expectations aside, and welcoming him with complete acceptance.
Weekly devotions on Christian living | DevotedQuilter.blogspot.com

God didn't wait for us to come to Him, either. He sent Jesus to be our Savior because He knew there was no other way to restore our relationship with Him. Now, whenever a person accepts Jesus, our Father welcomes him or her with the same complete acceptance, the same celebration, the same boundless joy.

Isn't it wonderful to know that our Father feels such joy over us?

June 15, 2015

Working for the Harvest

Devotion for the Week...

I have a small garden. There's my strawberry bed, which I planted a couple of years after we moved into the house and which consistently produces beautiful strawberries each summer. This year I planted a couple of small containers with spinach, basil and oregano, so it will be interesting to see how they do. I plan to plant tomatoes and peppers as soon as the risk of frost is finally past. My most interesting experiment this year is a bag designed for growing potatoes. I had never heard of it until this year, but my plants are growing vigorously, so I hope to be eating homegrown potatoes in a couple of months.

Even this small a garden requires work, of course. My strawberry bed collects leaves in the fall that need to be cleared out in the spring. There are weeds to be dealt with, especially this year when the birch tree in the yard has shed a prodigious number of seed pods unlike any other year. And everything needs to be watered. Depending on the weather, I may not have to water very often, especially in the spring, but sometimes I have to water every morning. Since I haven't yet bought a hose, that means lugging a watering can back and forth from the faucet, which takes 20 minutes or so altogether.

For the most part, I enjoy the work. I enjoy having something to do outside, and I enjoy watching the progress of the various plants. Sometimes, though, I'm tired and just don't want to spend the time. Of course, if I neglect the work in the garden, there's a good chance it will affect my harvest, especially if I neglect it for longer than a day or two.

Galatians 6:9 says, "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." Obviously, Paul isn't talking about a harvest of strawberries, or tomatoes, or spinach. He isn't talking about pulling weeds and watering, either. It is a simple reminder that doing good will bring about good results, but only if we keep at it and don't give up.

There are so many different ways of 'doing good' that there is no way I could write a full list of them. Here are just a few to give you an idea: patiently and lovingly caring for children or the elderly or the sick; showing kindness to those who deserve it least, but need it most; encouraging those in difficult circumstances; praying for others; helping neighbors; being a shoulder to cry on...I'm sure you could add many other ways of 'doing good' to this list.

Unfortunately, there are some things about the harvest Paul writes about that make it hard to keep doing good and not give up. First of all, we don't know when we will reap the harvest. I know that if I keep working in my strawberry bed, then sometime near the end of July or early August, I'll be eating gorgeous, perfect strawberries still warm from the sun. If you're persistently being kind to someone who is persistently negative, though, you have no idea if or when that person will change their attitude. It can be hard, in such circumstances, to keep at it and not get tired of being kind.

Second, we have no idea what the harvest will be. To keep the example of being kind to someone negative, the harvest may be a change in the other person's attitude which results in a beautiful friendship. Or maybe the person will remain stubbornly negative, but someone else, who sees your persistent kindness, will be affected in some way. We have no idea what will come of our actions. Our job is to be faithful, and leave the results with God. That's not always easy, so it helps to be reminded that there will be a harvest of some sort, and that we should not become weary.

And third, the harvest may not be the one we're hoping for. This one is linked to our not knowing what the harvest will be, but it's not quite the same. See, there are some situations where we may be doing good and what comes of it doesn't matter a whole lot to us. There are other situations, though, where we are most definitely hoping for a particular outcome. We may be praying for someone to leave a life of drugs, or for someone to be healed. Or maybe that negative person is someone we have to deal with every day and we're really hoping our kindness will result in that relationship being easier. Whatever the case may be, we can't control the outcome of our doing good. Even so, we can be sure that whatever the harvest may be, God is in control.
The work may not always be easy, and we may neglect it at times, but doing good is always worthwhile, especially if a God-designed harvest will be the result of our efforts.

June 11, 2015

Round Trip Quilts - Second Last Round!

It's hard to believe we're almost finished with Round Trip Quilts! This time around I have Chelsea's quilt. Chelsea blogs at Patch the Giraffe and she asked that we use solids and low volume background fabrics for her quilt. There are so many beautiful blocks in this quilt!

I made four blocks, planning to add them as a simple border along one side.
Unfortunately, the top left block was a 12" block from Quiltmaker's 100 Blocks, issue 11, and when I resized it my math was off by a bit. So, instead of finishing at 8" like the other three blocks, this one finished at a little more than 9". While I love the block, I didn't really want to make another one, so I put it aside and thought about it for a while.

When I noticed that the star blocks are offset in this border, I had my plan.
Some strips of low volume scraps and I had my four blocks offset in a wider border.
I think it worked well in the end. Here is what Chelsea's quilt looks like now, ready for Mary to put the finishing touch on it.
Only one round left to go and then we'll all get our own quilts back...considerably larger and more amazing than they were when we sent them out as starter blocks back in September!

In completely unrelated news, Aiden participated in a Shave for the Brave event at school today, raising money for Young Adult Cancer Canada. We are so proud of him! One of his teachers (who was rather fond of his beard) said that if Aiden raised a certain amount of money, he'd shave his beard. In this picture Aiden is laughing at the beard-shaving progress. The whole event was a lot of fun, and Aiden seems to really like his new look.

June 08, 2015

The Outside Things

Devotion for the Week...

Living God's way is often perceived by outsiders as following a rigid set of rules. I remember when I started dating Paul and a friend of the family found out I was dating a pastor's son. "That's it," he told me, "You won't be allowed to drink, or smoke, or dance, or play cards." I can't remember if there were other things he listed off, but I've never forgotten that his entire perception of my future in-laws denomination was of all the things they weren't allowed to do.

Unfortunately, in many ways, that perception was earned, since the denomination has a history of rather rigid legalism, though it is not so legalistic now. Legalism tends to put an emphasis on the outward actions, requiring people to look, dress and act within strict parameters. Anyone who doesn't conform can be judged as being less Christian than those who do. Conforming to certain standards doesn't always mean that all is well, though. It can be easy for a person to conform to the outward standards while at the same time their heart is far away from God.

Jesus confronted the legalistic religious groups in His day, reserving His harshest words for them, for exactly this reason. Matthew 23:13-33 is an account of Jesus denouncing them as blind guides, hypocrites, a brood of vipers...He really held nothing back! I was especially interested in verses 23 and 24, where He says, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel" (Matthew 23:23-24).

The things that were measurable, that others would see them doing, they did without fail. They brought the portion of their harvest that was required and gave it to the priests in the temple. They followed the legalistic rules and looked the part. But their hearts were not right, Jesus said. Mercy, justice and faithfulness can't be easily controlled. It's easy to require a tenth of something, and easy to follow through and give that tenth. But how do you quantify mercy? And if you can't quantify what a person is required to give, then how do you know if people are following the rules?

The temptation to focus on the outside things will always be there. We'll always be tempted to think that so long as we dress modestly and we don't swear and we follow whatever norms are accepted by our denomination then we'll be fine. God will accept us because we're being 'good'. It's not the outside things that really matter, though. How do we rate on things like mercy, justice and faithfulness? How are our hearts?

Notice too that Jesus doesn't condemn the religious leaders for giving a tenth of their spices. He tells them they should have been doing both. So it's not that we don't need to worry about looking like a Christian, it's that we should be doing the outward things, the things that can be seen, but we should also be worrying about our attitudes and our thoughts and all the inner things that can't be measured by others.

June 06, 2015

One Lovely Blog Award


I have to thank Beth, who blogs at Cooking Up Quilts, for nominating me for the One Lovely Blog award. I'm not sure where the award started, but it's a lovely way to honour those who write the blogs we love.

As part of accepting the award, I have to share 7 things about myself that you may not know. Here goes:

1. I'm not very good at small talk with people I don't know well. I tend to just smile a lot and let others do the talking when I'm in big groups. I'm much better if I know I have something in common with the people around me, like if they're quilters, but other than that I'm pretty hopeless. All bets are off once I get to know you, though...I can talk a lot with people I know well!

2. I made my first quilt during my second year of university (that was 1997) as a wedding gift for my friend Michelle. My mother, who had made one quilt herself, taught me what to do and I just dove in. The quilt had hand embroidery, fusible applique and hand quilting. I haven't looked back since!
Here I am getting ready to baste my first quilt. The white lines in the sashing and borders mark where I planned to quilt.

3. I used to think machine quilting was cheating. Obviously, I've been cured of that misconception ;)

4. I eat semi-sweet chocolate chips by the handful. Sometimes (okay, rather more often than sometimes) I just want a hit of pure chocolate and this works perfectly. I blame my husband for introducing me to the idea years ago, but I have certainly latched onto it. This would be why I have taken up running!

5. I have wanted to be a published writing for as long as I can remember. Mom says I was about 4 when I told her I'd be a writer when I grow up. What I want to write has changed over the years. As a teenager I was convinced I'd write epic fantasy novels, like Tolkein or Robert Jordan. In university I wrote a children's fantasy novella as my honours thesis. I went through a lot of years when I didn't write much of anything, though the dream was always there. For now, I'm happy with writing a quilting blog with weekly devotions.
6. I competed in rhythmic gymnastics for seven years and loved it. I still enjoy watching it on the rare occasions I stumble across an event on TV (usually during the summer Olympics)
7. In high school, chocolate chip cookies were my specialty. Whenever my friends and I got together, I was responsible for bringing my cookies. Once, though, I put a batch of cookies in the oven and went to rhythmics practice. Thankfully Dad was home and realized what had happened when he started to smell something burning. He arranged them nicely on a platter, took a picture and left them for me to 'enjoy' when I got home!

In accepting this award, I also agree to pay it forward and nominate other blogs that I feel are worthy of the award, (though the nit-picky writer in me has to say that I'm not actually nominating them for it, but rather simply awarding them with it), so here is a list of other blogs you should certainly check out.

Stitchery Dickory Dock - Amy's blog was the first one I ever read, back in 2012 when she was teaching the free Craftsy Block of the Month class. Her blog is beautiful. She shares her gorgeous quilts and snippets of her life as mom to 4 little ones, and she has a book coming out soon that I can't wait to see. Once I discovered her blog, it wasn't long before I was following along, reading every post, and then through Amy I found my way to the rest of the quilt blogging community and eventually started my own blog. So, I hold Amy somewhat responsible for all the fun I'm having now that I'm part of this great community of quilters.

Quilts of a Feather - I've spoken about Renee and her lovely blog before, when I shared the quilt I made for her, but it bears repeating. Her free motion quilting skills are amazing, and her quilts are beautiful!

Hidden Ponies - Anna is a food blogger and mom of 4 who writes beautiful and entertaining posts about food, her family and life in general.

Celtic Thistle Stitches - Fiona writes a somewhat eclectic blog. She hosts a couple of linky parties each month, quilts and does other crafty things and travels quite a bit (and shares the pictures to keep the rest of us dreaming about world travel). You never quite know what she'll be sharing, but it's always interesting!

While She Naps - Abby shares a great mix of posts about crafting, blogging and the business end of running a creative business. She also digs into the nitty-gritty of the crafting world, looking into things like how much money fabric designers make from each collection. Her newsletter is always interesting too.

There are many more blogs I enjoy reading, but it seems most of them have already been nominated for this award, so I'm limiting myself to only 5. Thank you again, Beth, for nominating me!

June 03, 2015

Moving Right Along

A short and sweet WIP post for this week...

I now have a finished top for the wedding quilt I'm making for my brother and sister-in-law (never mind that the wedding was almost two months ago). Here's a sneak peek (in black and white) to keep it a secret until the whole quilt is finished and gifted.

I also have the blocks made for my addition to Chelsea's quilt for this round of Round Trip Quilts.
This round was supposed to finish on June 1, but last round there were a few mailing delays and this round one member is moving so we've agreed to extend the mailing deadline. Good thing, since these blocks are not yet attached to Chelsea's quilt, so I wasn't ready to mail it on time anyway! It's hard to believe there's only one round left and then these quilts will be making their way home.

That's it for me this week. What are you working on?

June 01, 2015


Devotion for the Week...

My husband reads my blog. He reads the comments people leave for me and will sometimes mention that he liked one of my devotions, or that someone left a really nice comment. I love that he takes such an interest in this space and what I'm doing here. One day he read the devotion for the week and came upstairs to tell me he thought I wrote it to him. The whole time he was reading, he was waiting for me to mention one particular incident that had happened the morning of the day I typed the devotion, but I never mentioned it. I laughed because I hadn't thought of that incident at all as I wrote the devotion. In fact, as often happens, most of the devotion had been composed in my head for a couple of days before I took the time to sit and type it into the computer. The inspiration for it actually had nothing to do with him at all!

Have you ever had that happen? You read something, or heard something, and it seemed like it was directed right at you? It's like the author knows you personally, knows your thoughts and feelings, knows your situation and has written specifically to address you, even if really the author was thinking about something else entirely.

The religious leaders in Jesus' day had the feeling Jesus was talking to them too, but they were actually right - He was talking about them! "When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them. They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet" (Matthew 21:45). They wanted to arrest Him because He was talking about them, and how they weren't living the way God intended. Since that went against their own view of themselves, their immediate reaction was to be defensive.

We do that too, don't we? Someone points out that we've done or said something wrong, or a message that seems to be directed right at us makes us aware of our wrong attitude, and we immediately try to justify ourselves, or we try to come up with all the reasons the other person's opinion doesn't matter. Rarely do we immediately agree that we have been wrong. Instead we try to cling to our own opinion of ourselves, which says that what we've been doing is perfectly okay. Or if it's not perfectly okay, at least it's not as bad as what so-and-so does.

There was one man in the Bible who got the reaction perfectly right when confronted with his own wrongdoing. King David had taken another man's wife, got her pregnant, sent the husband to battle and gave orders to the commander of the army to put the husband where he would be most likely to be killed, which he was. The prophet Nathan came to King David and confronted him. David's response was simple. He "said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord” (v. 13). No justification, no trying to get rid of Nathan for pointing out the awful truth about David's actions, no pretending it wasn't true. Just simply admitting the truth.

So, the question is, how will we react the next time we are confronted with our own wrongs? Whether the person confronting us is doing so directly, as Nathan did to King David, or God is speaking to us through someone who is totally unaware of our situation is irrelevant. Once we are aware of our wrong actions, or attitudes or thoughts or whatever, what will our reactions be? Will we be like the Pharisees, who refused to accept the truth and sought to attack Jesus? Or will we be like David, who accepted the truth and acknowledged his wrongdoing?