November 30, 2015

Advent 2015 - Hope

Devotion for the Week...

I love celebrating Advent. The Christmas season is a busy one, with concerts and parties and shopping and baking and parades and...You know what it's like. It's easy to get overwhelmed, isn't it? The question, "Are you ready for Christmas?" really means, have you decorated and bought and cooked enough? In short, have you done enough? But really, all the hustle and bustle only gets us ready for the earthly side of Christmas, the gifts and family side of the holiday. Celebrating Advent gets us ready for the spiritual side. Lighting the candles in the Advent wreath and reading a short devotion reminds us that there is more to Christmas than presents and parties and stress. Advent helps put the focus back on Jesus.

In the weeks to come, we'll look at Peace, Joy and Love. For this, the first week of Advent, we begin with Hope.

The first person to know of the imminent arrival of the promised Savior was a priest named Zechariah. While Zechariah was in the temple one day, an angel appeared to him, telling him that his wife, who was old and barren, would conceive a son. That son, the angel said, would "make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (Luke 1:17). As most of us probably would have been, Zechariah was skeptical, and asked "How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years" (v. 18). His question seems reasonable, but for his skepticism, Zechariah was struck mute until the birth of his son, who, when grown, would come to be known as John the Baptist. When the baby was born and Zechariah wrote "His name is John" on a tablet, his voice was returned and he began to prophesy about Jesus (who had not yet been born). Zechariah said that He would come "to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days" (vv. 74,75).

That, right there, is our hope.

The religious leaders of His day didn't recognize Jesus as the Messiah because they were looking for a king who would save them from their Roman overlords. They were only looking for someone who would save them from their earthly enemies. Their view of their trouble, and the rescue God would send, was way too narrow. Jesus didn't come to save us from earthly enemies. He came to save us from sin and death, the enemies that keep us separated from God. Romans 8:1,2 says, "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death." He has rescued us and set us free!

Once we have been rescued from our enemies, we can then have a relationship with God. "See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are" (1 John 3:1). We are now able to love and serve Him without fear of punishment because Jesus came to take our punishment for us. We can come before God in holiness and righteousness, not because we are suddenly holy and righteous ourselves, but because we now have holiness and righteousness from Jesus. Philippians 3:9 says we don't have "a righteousness of [our] own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith."

Without Jesus we have no holiness, no righteousness, and no chance of earning either one. But through faith in Him, we can "serve [God] without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days." Zechariah's people had waited over 400 years for Jesus, but because of Christmas, the wait is over!

November 23, 2015


Devotion for the Week...

We listen to mostly Christian music in our house. We love Third Day, Casting Crowns, Francesca Batistelli, Christy Knockels, Mercy Me and more. Looking back, the switch to mostly Christian music wasn't a conscious decision. It was simply a matter of finding more and more Christian music that we genuinely enjoyed, that expressed what we believe and is honestly just good music. I know very little about current music outside of the Christian genre, which sometimes makes me feel like I'm weird, like somehow I'm missing an important part of the culture, but mostly it doesn't bother me.

Now, before I go any farther, let me say that I'm not trying to say that Christian music is the only music any Christian should be listening to. Nor am I passing judgement on those who listen to other music. This is just our choice right now. I'm finding there are some benefits to it, and I wanted to share those today, but, please, if you listen to other music, don't feel like I'm trying to tell you you're wrong! Okay, we now return to our regularly scheduled devotion... :)

Nathan seems to pay more attention to the lyrics of the music than anyone else in the house. Lots of times he's playing with his Lego, or drawing at the table and suddenly he'll say, "What does he mean, 'He that is living in me is greater than he that is living in the world?" We've had some interesting conversations about God in the last year as he has tried to understand the lyrics. It's been especially fun when he's confused because he's mishearing the words!

In Deuteronomy, Moses tells the people of Israel, "These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates" (Deuteronomy 6: 6-9). Now, to be honest, I've always thought that people who followed these directions would be trying to force every conversation to come around to God, trying to relate everything to God's commands. I thought it wouldn't feel like natural conversation. But really, this just means that these things are to be part of our everyday conversations, not limited to when we're inside the church building. Listening to Christian music helps to naturally start those conversations with Nathan because he's interested in what the lyrics say and he wants me to explain it to him.

As for me, I find that a lot of the time the music is just in the background and I'm reading, or making supper, or playing games or whatever and not consciously paying attention to what I'm hearing. It sticks in my head though, even if I'm not paying attention. I'll play Bart Millard's CD Hymned Again while I make supper one evening and then the next morning in the shower I find "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" running through my head.

Sometimes, too, when I haven't been paying attention to the music, I'll catch a line like "Even what the enemy means for evil, you turn it for our good, you turn it for our good, and for your glory" from Aaron Keyes' "Sovereign Over Us". What a great line! And what a great thought to have catch my attention. Philippians 4:8 says, "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." Listening to music that focuses on God is one way to keep those things front and center in my mind, and the minds of the whole family.

There are a lot of influences in the world, trying to take our attention away from God. I love using Christian music to keep my attention where it should be.

Do you listen to Christian music? If you do, who are your favourite artists? I'm always up for listening to someone new!


November 19, 2015

Flower Box Mini Top

I have the Flower Box blocks put together into a 24" mini quilt top. I love how those corners come together in the center. I think this design would look great made into a larger quilt too, but I only had enough white lying around for four blocks!

I also love how the stitching looks on all of the flowers, but especially on the yellow one. The simple black outlining really helps those yellow petals stand out from the white.
I have the quilt basted together now and I'm hoping to get started on the quilting later this evening. I'm still trying to decide what to quilt in the white...either a tight stipple or a combination of swirls and pebbles. What do you think?

November 17, 2015

Flower Box Blocks

I've been working on the blocks for my Flower Box mini quilt. I'm making a 24" wall size, so I need four blocks. I decided to go with a variety of black fabrics for the corners and the flower centers. The flower petals are all made from a pack of batiks my sister-in-law gave me for Christmas last year.

I really like how the bright batiks pop against the white background and the black corners.

Last night I started stitching around the flowers. I had been debating how I would stitch around them for a while. On the cushion I made for Make Modern, I did a machine blanket stitch around the applique shapes, but I wanted something different this time.
On Instagram I have really been admiring the work of @Mrs_Moog. She does a lot of free machine embroidery using black thread and I love the simplicity of it, so that's what I decided to go with for this quilt. So far I have one of the four flowers stitched.
As a bonus, using my free motion foot to stitch around the flowers is much faster than doing a blanket stitch!
I have a light week for babysitting this week since one of the boys is out of town for four days and the second will also be out of town one of those days. Extra stitching time means I hope to be quilting this before the week is out! Here's hoping you have a productive week too :)

November 16, 2015

What is Needed

Devotion for the Week...

I love reading down through the comments stream on pictures on Instagram when there's a discussion going on. Yesterday a woman posted a picture along with a caption that said she was working on some Christmas things to distract her from the unpleasantness of living with teenagers. "How dare I ask her to empty the dishwasher?" she asked. What followed was commiseration from those who are also raising teenagers with attitude to spare, along with suggestions for how to make those teenagers more willing to pitch in and do what needs to be done. It was interesting to read, partly because Aiden is 13 (but not yet full of attitude) so we're just beginning our voyage through the teenage years, but mostly because those suggestions are so different from the things I do with the toddlers I babysit, who can't yet grasp the concept of getting their beloved technology back once the chores are finished.

I read this passage of Isaiah with Aiden and Zachary the other night before they went to bed. Though at first glance it doesn't seem at all related, this is what came to mind as I read the Instagram suggestions for dealing with teenagers.

Listen and hear my voice;
    pay attention and hear what I say.
When a farmer plows for planting, does he plow continually?
    Does he keep on breaking up and working the soil?
When he has leveled the surface,
    does he not sow caraway and scatter cumin?
Does he not plant wheat in its place,
    barley in its plot,
    and spelt in its field?
His God instructs him
    and teaches him the right way.
Caraway is not threshed with a sledge,
    nor is the wheel of a cart rolled over cumin;
caraway is beaten out with a rod,
    and cumin with a stick.
Grain must be ground to make bread;
    so one does not go on threshing it forever.
The wheels of a threshing cart may be rolled over it,
    but one does not use horses to grind grain.
All this also comes from the Lord Almighty,
    whose plan is wonderful,
    whose wisdom is magnificent.
                                             Isaiah 28:23-29.

I confess that when I first read this, I didn't see it as having any connection to raising teenagers, or to anything remotely connected to my life. I also confess I had no idea what it meant, especially since it seemed out of place coming as it does in the midst of Isaiah's prophecies of destruction. So, I headed online to see what the commentaries had to say. You can read those commentaries here, but I'll summarize a little, and I'm going to take it in two parts. Since most of us aren't farmers, Isaiah's example doesn't really make sense to us, so I'll relate it to parenting, which in turn will help us see how God works in our lives.

First of all, the farmer has a variety of tasks that he needs to do in sequence (verses 23-26). He doesn't plow forever, but moves on from one task to the next, all working towards the goal of a harvest. As parents, we have to tailor our teaching to the ages of our children, with the end goal of raising capable, godly adults. When Zachary was two, we didn't ask him to make supper. Now, though, he is learning to cook. At first he and Paul worked together to make sloppy joes, which are his specialty, but now Zachary does all the work except for the cooking of the meat. Gradually, task by task, we teach our kids to take care of themselves, to be independent. 

In a spiritual sense, God has a plan for His people, which requires that He not always be doing the same thing in our lives. He works in us, bringing us closer and closer to being the Christ-like people He wants us to be. Sometimes He will be working to prepare us, other times He will be planting and tending the seed of some trait He wants to develop in us, and at other times He will, hopefully, bring in a harvest as that new character trait becomes part of us.

The second part of the passage talks about threshing, which is certainly something I've never done and have no clue about. I buy my flour already ground and ready to use, thank you! But as I read, it seemed obvious that different grains have to be threshed (or separated from the inedible chaff) in different ways...what works for one won't work for the other.

As I said, this passage comes in the midst of Isaiah's prophecy about the destruction that will come because God's people have been disobeying Him and have refused to heed the many stern warnings they've been given. According to the commentaries I read, the threshing symbolizes God's work in us too, but this time in the manner of discipline. Sometimes we need only a gentle reminder that what we are doing is wrong. Other times sterner measures are needed, like the destruction God would have to send on the people of Israel and Judah before He would get their attention. God knows how best to discipline us, just as the farmer knows how to thresh different grains, and just as we know to discipline our own children in different ways according to their ages and personalities.

Proverbs 3:11,12 says, "My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in." Though we won't like being disciplined by God any more than our kids like being disciplined by us, we can be sure that we are being disciplined by a Father who loves us. 

Most importantly, always, no matter what stage we are at in our spiritual growth or what form the discipline takes, His goal is to make us better and never to cause us harm.

November 13, 2015

My Online Trunk Show

Have you seen the Online Trunk Show being hosted by Soma at Whims and Fancies? She has invited quilt bloggers to link up virtual trunk shows of their favourite quilts and it's been fun to sit back and check them all out.
Online Quilt Trunk Show | Whims And Fancies

Before I open my virtual trunk and share some of my favourite quilts, I thought I'd share this fun fact: My fabric stash is stored in this real trunk, which my mother-in-law used when she went to university.

It's not at all organized, but I love rummaging around in the trunk to find fabric for a new project!
I'll start the trunk show with my very first quilt. I couldn't find a finished picture of it, so here's a shot of me working on it in the summer of 1997. The quilt has tons of hand embroidery and was hand quilted along those chalk lines that are drawn in the sashing. It was a wedding gift for my friends Michelle and Brian.
I made quilts for all three of my boys when they were born (or at least they were intended for when they were born!). Here is Aiden's quilt. The pattern is from the book A Quilter's Ark, by Margaret Rolfe. We used this quilt all the time when Aiden was a baby, until one day I noticed the threads I used to hand quilt it were disintegrating. I still don't know what happened!
The pattern for Zachary's quilt came from Margaret Rolfe's book too.The funny thing is, Zachary is now very interested in animals, and dolphins are among his favourites.
 Nathan's quilt was one of my early free motion quilting ones. It's also the only one of their quilts that still hangs somewhere in the this case, the family room. The pattern came from a magazine, but I can't remember who designed it. I added the vehicles around the borders from another pattern, which I also can't remember right now.
And, not to leave my husband out, I made him a coffee quilt. This pattern was from the book Stack a New Deck, by Karla Alexander. It was hanging in our living room until a couple of weeks ago and we haven't found a new home for it yet.

This is my Scrappy Log Cabin quilt. If learning a new skill is mostly a matter of practice, this quilt played a big part in my free motion quilting skills! I think somewhere in the vicinity of 3 1/2 km of thread went into quilting this one!
This next one was made for the Schniztel and Boo Mini Quilt Swap, round 2. I used a block from Quiltmaker's 100 Blocks magazine called Spin Cycle, which was designed by Gudrun Erla. I did a lot of free motion quilting in the white sections and this was the first quilt where I felt like I had gone from a beginner to an intermediate fmq quilter.
 My And Sew On quilt was the first one I made that was inspired by a 'squirrel' moment because of something I found online. I stumbled onto Kristy's blog, Quiet Play, when she released the scissors block in her 2013 And Sew On BOM. It was just so cute, I had to make it! I made four more blocks from the series for this quilt that now hangs in our downstairs hallway.
My Flower Box cushion cover pattern was in Make Modern magazine. I was so excited about my first published pattern! Now I'm working on a wall hanging made with four of these blocks and I plan to release the pattern in my Payhip and Etsy shops within the next couple of weeks.
The last one I'll share for my trunk show is Noodles, which was designed for the Curves issue of Fat Quarterly magazine. It was fun making this one because it was only my second attempt at sewing curves and it was exciting to see each block come together the way it was supposed to! Noodles lives permanently on Miss Cleo, the 1923 Singer treadle machine in our entryway.
Thanks for coming to visit for my trunk show! If you're interested in sharing your own favourite quilts, the linky will remain open until November 18th, so there's still time to get in on the fun.

November 09, 2015


Devotion for the Week...

I love to read. I love a good novel, the type of story that completely sucks me in and makes me lose track of the real world because I'm busy living in the world of the story. There are authors that I love to read, and that I know when I start one of their books I will not want to do anything but read until the book is done. A few years ago I had to take a book (by Kristen Heitzmann I think) into my bedroom and leave it there, out of sight during the day, so I wouldn't be tempted to just sit and read when I should have been taking care of my boys!

A really good book pulls me in because I feel everything the main characters are feeling. Really good books give readers details about physical sensations, so a character who is cold might feel it at the tip of her nose, or her fingers, or maybe she pulls her coat closed to try to block the wind. Then, of course, there are the emotions. I have cried my way through more than one of Karen Kingsbury's books, for example. (Please tell me I'm not the only one! And if you've never read her books, I highly recommend them.)

The Bible, though, tends to leave out those details. My favourite example has to be Matthew 4:2. Speaking about Jesus, Matthew wrote, "After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry." In all honesty, I always want to laugh when I read that verse, especially if I'm reading it out loud, because it just seems like such an absurd understatement. Of course He was hungry! A novel written today would probably take several sentences to describe the physical sensations caused by His hunger, and the weakness that came from going so long without food. I want to know if Jesus was sitting in the wilderness thinking about the way His mother cooked his favourite food when He was a child, or if He was eyeing the insects and thinking about eating some of them. Actually, I'd love to know what He was thinking about, even if it had nothing to do with food at all.  

The lack of detail makes it harder for me to really enter into the stories as I read, and sometimes the tendency is to just read the words and not think deeply about the moment. It's almost like reading a weather report or a recipe...I'm taking in and understanding the words, but there's no deeper connection that makes me engage emotionally with what I'm reading. Sometimes, though, there is something about the story that makes me stop and think, something that makes me imagine the details that aren't recorded.

A couple of weeks ago I read about Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane just before He was betrayed by Judas. I read it through in my usual fashion, but then I stopped and stared at one spot on the page. It was the spot between two sentences, and I couldn't stop thinking one thing, "How many minutes passed between these two sentences?"

"Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, 'My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.'" (Matthew 26:39).  I've always read that in pretty much one breath, as if it were all one thought, but this one time I read it, I couldn't get away from the possibility that maybe Jesus struggled a long time before He was able to say "Yet not as I will, but as you will." 

As a man, Jesus did not want to go through the physical and emotional struggle that was about to happen. That's why He prayed that it would be taken from Him. We know that He submitted to the Father's will and plan, but was it hard for Him to submit? Obviously, I don't know, but wondering about it certainly makes the story feel more real, and makes me think about it differently.

What about you? Do you find the Bible's lack of detail makes it hard for you to engage with the story sometimes?

November 04, 2015

Friendship Galaxy Pattern Release!

Friendship Galaxy Quilt Pattern |
I am so happy to be able to release my Friendship Galaxy pattern today! The pattern includes instructions to make a 45" square baby quilt, an 11 1/2" x 29 1/2" skinny mini quilt, a 29 1/2" square mini quilt and a 65 1/2" x 74 1/2" throw size quilt. The pattern also includes colouring pages to help you decide where to place the fabrics in your quilt.

You can read more about the baby quilt I made for little Judah in this finish post. I also made a skinny mini version, though that one is still waiting to be quilted.
I had three fantastic testers volunteer to make their own Friendship Galaxy quilts, and I love all of their versions!

Anja, of Anja Quilts, used the 29 1/2" mini layout, but added a wide border to make it a baby quilt. You can read more about her quilt here.
 Fiona, of Celtic Thistle Stitches, chose to make a Christmas version of the skinny mini layout.
 And Laura, @sliceofpilife on Instagram, made this striking two tone version of the baby quilt size.
It's always so much fun to see what other people make using my patterns! Thank you so much to Anja, Fiona and Laura! I really appreciate you taking the time to test the pattern and give me feedback.

The Friendship Galaxy pattern is now available in my Etsy shop. Because some of the pieces are quite small (1 1/2" squares and HSTs), this pattern is more suited to an intermediate or confident beginner quilter.

If you make a quilt using the Friendship Galaxy pattern, I'd love to see it! Tag me on Instagram (@devotedquilter) or email me a picture or a link to a blog post. You can find a quick link to my email at the top right of my sidebar.

November 03, 2015

Birthday Memory

It's been a while since I wrote a post for Compassion, but this one was just too good to pass up!

Kids love birthdays, don't they? They love the parties and the presents and the cake. They love the attention and the excitement. Last year Nathan did a countdown for his birthday, and everyone in his class knew how many more days until Nathan would turn 7.
Zachary, Nathan and Aiden on the 2015 birthdays. Boy do Zach and Aiden look different now!

My birthday is in the summer, so we were often on vacation on my birthday. There was one year we were heading home, so we left Ontario, drove through Quebec and into New Brunswick, where we stopped for the night. My Dad joked that it's not every kid who gets to see three provinces on their birthday! I even spent one birthday here in Newfoundland, though I lived in Nova Scotia growing up. We stayed at campsite number 12 in Terra Nova National Park, which I remember because we arrived at the campground the day before my 13th birthday, so I spent one night being 12 at campsite 12.

Compassion International has come up with a way to make the birthdays of some kids extra memorable. Here is some information about Compassion, taken from their website:

"As one of the world’s leading child development organizations, Compassion partners with the local church in 26 countries to end poverty in the lives of children and their families.

Today, more than 1.6 million children are discovering lives full of promise and purpose as they develop in all the different aspects of their lives—their minds, bodies and relationships while discovering God’s love for them in the gospel of Jesus Christ."

If you're interested in sponsoring a child through Compassion, they now have a page that features birthday boys and girls who are waiting for sponsors. Wouldn't it be a great birthday memory for a child to be sponsored on their birthday? Visit this page to see who is celebrating a birthday today. Sponsoring the birthday boy or girl would change their lives forever!

November 02, 2015


Devotion for the Week...

Growing up, Krista was my best friend. We spent so much time together during our junior high and high school years that our parents joked about trading adoption papers so we'd both officially belong in both families. I called her mother "Mom" almost as easily as I did my own mother.

Like most teenage girls, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to be beautiful. I wasn't exactly sure how to become beautiful , but it seemed to require lots of time spent on my hair, the right makeup and plenty of new clothes. Krista's mother Anne didn't follow that philosophy, yet still managed to be one of the most beautiful women I have ever known.  Anne's hair was simple, I don't think I ever saw her with makeup on and she often wore jeans and a T-shirt. Yet she was beautiful. I imagine she still is, though I haven't seen her in a long time. People will sometimes say, "She's beautiful, inside and out." Well, that was certainly the case with Anne, and my teenage self recognized it without fully understanding why. Looking back, I see that she smiled easily. She was genuinely happy to see people when they were visiting. She was kind and gentle and, well, you get the idea!

1 Peter 3:3,4 says, "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight." Over the years many denominations, including my own, have used this verse (and others like it) to say that women shouldn't wear makeup, or earrings, or pants, or any number of other things they felt were somehow ungodly. But that's not what it means. It's not that there's anything wrong with those things. It's more that, if that's the only beauty you have, then you are a very ugly person indeed!

In the book of Colossians, Paul tells us what all Christians should put on, and it has nothing to do with our appearance. "Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity" (Colossians 3:12-14).

Compassion. Kindness. Humility. Gentleness. Patience. Forgiveness. Love.

Do we put those things on daily, as diligently as we put on the clothes that make us feel pretty? Or as carefully as we style our hair? Do we try to be compassionate and humble as much as we try to be beautiful? 
Devotions on Christian living |

Many of us would be horrified to be seen in public the way we look when we get out of bed. Are we equally horrified to be seen being unkind or impatient?

Maybe that's something to think about in the mornings this week as we get ourselves ready to be seen in public.