November 30, 2021

A Dragon Finish

This working on projects consistently thing actually works to get them to the finish line! Who would have thought?? 

I started the WIPS-B-GONE challenge to get a little accountability to finish my dragon cross stitch and I'm so happy that it is now finished.
'The Caste" dragon cross stitch |
This is The Castle, designed by Teresa Wentzler, and I started it close to 20 years ago. Mostly it just sat untouched, but every now and then I'd pick it up for a few days and then it would languish again. Once I started working on it for WIPS-B-GONE, I was amazed by how quickly I could make progress. Even though some days I could only spend 15 minutes at it, those bits of work still added up.

I shared my dragon a few weeks ago, when the cross stitching part was finished and I was ready to start the backstitching. Here's a side-by-side comparison to show the difference the backstitching makes. Isn't it amazing how the simple backstitching lines make the whole thing come into focus? It doesn't hurt that I pressed it before taking the finished picture, too.
'The Caste" dragon cross stitch |
I love the details of the face and around the castle towers.
'The Caste" dragon cross stitch |
And the details in the wing.
'The Caste" dragon cross stitch |
I've always loved rocks, so it makes me happy that the pattern includes so much variation in the rocks, even if it did feel like it took forever to stitch around them.
'The Caste" dragon cross stitch |
I'm planning to have the dragon professionally framed, but I'm not sure when that will happen. There are no framers in our town, so it requires a trip to a city two hours away, then another trip again to pick it up after it's ready. It definitely won't be waiting 20 years this time, though!

November 29, 2021

Advent 2021 - The Fulness of the Time

 Devotion for  the Week...

It's the first Sunday of Advent! Do you have your tree up yet? We always put ours up the first weekend of December, so we don't yet, but I've been seeing more and more decorated trees popping up on my social media feeds. I love getting to see how other people decorate for Christmas.

This Advent season I'm going to be sharing devotions that focus on God's timing. Galatians 4:4-5 say, "But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children." That's in the New Living Translation. In the more famous King James Version, verse 4 starts off, "But when the fulness of the time was come." There's something beautiful about the phrase the fulness of the time, isn't there?

Isaiah prophesied the coming of the Messiah about 700 years before Jesus was born. That's a long time for the people to Israel to have waited! So what made Mary's day the right time, compared to the hundreds of years that had already passed? Unfortunately, the Bible doesn't tell us what the criteria were for choosing the time of Jesus' birth.

One theory is that God waited for the arrival of the Roman Empire. The Romans created peace that allowed for travel between many places, which allowed the gospel to spread quickly and easily. There was also a common working language that was understood by people in many different places, which would have allowed Christians to share their good news without being hampered by language barriers.

I was amused once to hear someone say that Jesus was born in Bethlehem because the Roman emperor was getting low on funds, prompting him to call for a census so he could get more tax revenue. Was the state of the emperor's budget part of God's criteria for the right time?

Those are only human speculation, of course. Maybe the right time had more to do with Mary and her willing spirit or with things we know nothing about. Only God knows what made that time the right time. 
You can't rush the fulness of the time |
The same truth applies to situations in our everyday lives, too. Is there something you've been waiting for? Maybe you've been waiting and praying for so long it feels like it has been 700 years. Whatever it is, God knows when the right time will be for the answer to come. We know when we want things to happen (now, please!), but God is waiting for His criteria to be met so that He answers at the right time.

You can't rush the fulness of the time, whether it's for healing for your loved one or salvation for the entire world.

November 22, 2021

Take The Opportunities

 Devotion for the Week...

Most of our fall has been grey, cloudy and drizzly. It has been hard to be motivated to get outside, to say the least. Saturday morning, then, it was a real treat to wake up to a bright, sunny morning. My usual routine on a nice Saturday morning is to go for a walk first thing, but Zach had a volleyball tournament that day, so as I headed for the shower to get ready all I could think was how much I wanted to be out in the sun. Then I realized that I was up in time to get Zach to the gym 40 minutes before the game started, but if I weren't the one driving him to the gym, then I could walk there instead and still arrive in time to watch the game. In the end, Paul decided to walk with me and Zach drove himself (yay for teenagers who can drive!) and I had a wonderful half hour in the sun.

We all know that life is busy. There are so many things we have to do (work, household chores, appointments) and so many we want to do (exercise, hobbies, family time) and it's hard to fit it all into our allotted 24 hours a day. We have to make the most of any little opportunities we find to do the things we love. In my case, it meant realizing that I could spend those 30 minutes outside rather than sitting in the gym waiting for the game to start. The Saturday before, when the weather was miserable and I was waiting for the indoor soccer game to start, it meant spending that time on Instagram, catching up on everyone else's progress on the WIPS-B-GONE hashtag.

In Ephesians 5:15-17, Paul wrote, " So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do." We are presented with so many different opportunities each day. There are opportunities to connect with other people, opportunities to help our communities, opportunities to further our careers, to tell others about Jesus, to be creative and to care for ourselves or others. Are we making the most of those opportunities?

I can't tell you the right way to approach your days because we will have different opportunities and different goals. I can say that if we're willing to pay attention - to be careful how we live, as Paul put it, then we'll make the most of the opportunities before us.

We start missing opportunities when we stop paying attention to how we're living. When I'm scrolling on my phone while one of the boys is talking to me, I miss the opportunity to connect with him. When I stay up too late, I miss the opportunity to sleep and take care of myself. 
Not all of the opportunities before us are life-changing |
Not all of the opportunities before us are earth-shaking or life-changing. In fact, most of them will be ordinary, regular life kind of moments that can slip past unnoticed. I still want to make the most of them, though. 

PS. Jeremy Camp has a great song called "Keep Me in the Moment" that sums this up perfectly.

November 15, 2021

Patchwork of Salvation

You know I'm partial to devotions, right? I mean, they're the reason for half of the name of this blog! Today I'm happy to share a new devotional book with you, written by my friend Jen Frost, of Faith and Fabric.

With Patchwork of Salvation, Jen has created a beautiful devotional to help us keep our focus on Jesus during the hustle and bustle of the Advent season. The devotions trace the story of our salvation from Creation to the birth of Jesus and there are pictures of beautiful quilt blocks that go with each day's devotion 😊 Jen will also have a Spanish version of the devotional available starting December 1st.
Patchwork of Salvation Advent devotional |
Pictures on this post are courtesy of Jen Frost
Here's a sneak peek inside the devotional:

If you want to make the blocks that go along with the devotions, Jen has the pattern for them available, too! I even made a few of them last year. You can see the first 5 blocks here and the Rahab and Ram blocks here. Then I got sidetracked and didn't finish the rest. Oops!
Patchwork of Salvation devotional |
If you want to read more about Patchwork of Salvation, head to Jen's site, Faith and Fabric. Or you can click over to Amazon to pick up your copy so you'll be ready to start reading on December 1st.

Whatever Works

When our boys were small, they slept in their own beds right from the start. I knew there was no way I would ever sleep if they were in bed with me. I even had to have the baby monitor turned way down so I only heard them when they started crying and I didn't hear every time they squirmed around in the crib. I didn't (and still can't!) understand how so many of my friends could sleep with their kids in bed with them. When talking about it, we'd often just laugh and say, "you've gotta do whatever works for you."

That applied to so many things! The foods we served (and that the kids would actually eat), the technology time we allowed, whether or not they were registered for minor hockey...the list goes on and on. In parenting there are many right ways to do things. Each family has to pick and choose what will work for them, without judging that others are wrong if they choose differently.

The Bible has a sort of "whatever works for you" moment, too. Writing to the Romans, Paul said, "Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. For instance, one person believes it’s all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them" (Romans 14:1-3). He continued, "In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable. Those who worship the Lord on a special day do it to honor him. Those who eat any kind of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who refuse to eat certain foods also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God" (vv. 5-6).

Paul was telling the Romans it's okay to worship God through opposing choices and he stressed that neither choice is wrong, which is a message that still needs to be heard today. Whether we do or we don't do a particular thing, Paul said, it's important that we each do what we believe is right. Equally important is that we aren't to be shaming or judging the people who choose differently than we do.

I remember hearing Chuck Swindoll say that he was taken aback at a pastor's conference in Germany years ago when he saw all of his fellow pastors drinking beer with their meal, which is something he would never consider, but that is perfectly acceptable in German culture. The other pastors weren't wrong for having a beer and Chuck wasn't wrong for not having one. They simply believed differently about what was right and followed their own convictions.
As long as we are seeking to please and honour God, the how of it doesn't matter |
Our society these days tries to insist that everything is either right or wrong, without allowing for differences of culture or belief, but God used Paul's letter to the Romans to tells us otherwise. He created us to have different opinions, different cultures and different ways of worshipping Him. As long as we are seeking to please and honour Him, the how of it doesn't matter.

November 12, 2021

Zoomed In Quilt and Pattern Release

Today I get to share my Zoomed In quilt and pattern! The pattern is now listed in my Etsy shop, with the PDF available right away and the printed pattern listed as a preorder that will ship once they arrive from the printer.
Zoomed In quilt pattern |
I love flower applique quilts and this great, big, bold flower is so much fun. It's perfect for showing off beautiful fabrics, like the Watermark ones I used. I'm always a sucker for blue fabrics and for tone-on-tone fabrics, so Watermark by Tammie Green for Riley Blake Designs was really calling my name.
My friend Michelle named this quilt (that's at least three she has named, now!) because she said it feels like we're looking at the zoomed in picture of the corner of a much larger quilt. I had grand plans of taking it to the beach for pictures because a quilt made with Watermark fabrics and a background called Sand Dollar needed to be photographed at the beach...but life had other plans. With the time change, I'm now working through pretty much all the daylight hours, I finished the quilt on Tuesday evening and it needed to be posted here on Friday morning, so indoor pictures it is.

Zoomed In finishes at 48" square and it stitched up super fast 😊
Zoomed In quilt pattern |
I cut my applique pieces using my rotary cutter, with two fabrics stacked together so I cut two at a time. I considered stacking three, but I feel like I lose the precision when I'm tracing a template with three stacked, so I stuck with two. I used to cut all my applique shapes individually with scissors, until I started garment sewing and watched people cut out clothing pieces by tracing around their paper patterns with rotary cutters. I never even thought of doing that, lol. I think I assumed you had to have something sturdy like a ruler in order to use the cutter. 

Lots of times I only stitch around my applique shapes with the quilting, but this time I chose to go around them all with a zig zag stitch, using Aurifil 50 wt Very Dark Navy (2785).
Zoomed In quilt pattern |
When it came time for the quilting, I didn't know how I wanted to quilt the Watermark fabrics, so I started with Aurifil 2311 for the background. I stitched around the flower, then echoed that about ½" away, then echoed it again about ¼" away. 
Zoomed In quilt pattern |
The about is an important word, as there is plenty of variation in the echo stitching.
Zoomed In quilt pattern |
After outlining and echoing the flower, I stitched a flower meander in the background. I started out stitching it kind of densely...
Zoomed In quilt pattern |
But somewhere along the line, it got a whole lot looser. The best I can say about the flower meander quilting is that it is consistently inconsistent! In the overall view, though, it's not really noticeable, which is yet another reminder that the imperfections we see as we're working on our quilts are not so bad when we step back a bit.
Zoomed In quilt pattern |
Once I started moving out from the flower block, I outlined the blue borders, and kept going with the flower meander. I really liked how the back was looking with nothing in the thin borders, so I decided to leave them unquilted. It seems to be becoming a trend for me lately to leave parts of my quilts unquilted.
Zoomed In free motion quilting |
I love how the flower looks on the back!
Zoomed In free motion quilting |
And here's the whole back 😍
Zoomed In free motion quilting |
Stitching the label on is such a tiny step, but it's a super satisfying one!
Zoomed In quilt pattern |
Go to my Etsy shop to pick up your copy of Zoomed In. It's available for the introductory price now through November 17th.

November 09, 2021

French Knot Flowers

I have started a new long term project. And by long term, I mean looooooong term! It doesn't look like much yet, but I'm hoping it will eventually be pretty. 
French knot flower hoop |
Kitty of Night Quilter has been making milestone quilts for years and has created a whole membership community around the idea of quilting your life. While I'm not a member of the Quilt Your Life Crew, I have always admired the interesting quilts she has made and the whole idea of the positive feedback loops created by earning quilt blocks. Kitty's most recent project documents her daily core strengthening exercises, using a coloured strip for each day she does her exercises and with a plan for this to be a quilt with no end. 

I loved that idea, especially since core work is something I struggle to be consistent with, too. I have muscle spasms in my back that cause nagging pain and my physiotherapist prescribed planks, clamshells and a few other exercises to strengthen my core and fix the issues. That means I have plenty of reason to be doing the core work, but somehow finding the motivation is still hard. How is it that I can find more than an hour to go for a walk most days, but the 15 minutes the exercises take is almost impossible? It all comes down to interest. I love my daily walks, but there's nothing very exciting about doing planks!

On a walk I pondered ways to turn Kitty's tracking quilt into something I could stick with and I hit upon the idea of a hoop of french knot flowers. 
French knot flower hoop |
It hits all the right points for me:

  • I don't need my sewing machine. This was a big one, because I wanted something I could do right away after finishing the exercises, without needing to set up my sewing machine or switch it from fmq mode if I was in the middle of quilting something.
  • It's super fast to do each day's knot. I didn't want something that would take much time each day because I'm more likely to actually do it if it's fast.
  • There's no prep time needed each day. I know that I'll put off cutting fabric or tracing more flowers or anything like that, so I designed the flower hoop so that all the prep work is done, other than cutting a length of thread now and then. That much I think I can manage!
I wanted to make it almost impossible to fall behind with this project because I know myself well enough to know that if I fall behind, the whole project will likely fall by the wayside. More than wanting the flowers to eventually be filled with colourful french knots, I really want to be stronger and pain free!

So far the plan is working 😊 I drew the flowers, did my exercises and then made my first french knot on Halloween, in between trick-or-treaters. I now have 9 french knots, after not missing a single day since I started! That's already more consecutive days of core work than I've ever done before.
French knot flower hoop |
Is this going to take for.e.ver? Yes, yes it is! But that's kind of the point. These are exercises that need to become part of my life, so I might as well have a motivation that's going to last a long time, too 😊

November 08, 2021

Spread it Liberally

 Devotion for the Week...

The WIPS-B-GONE challenge is almost halfway finished. Day 50 will be this Thursday, November 11. It is so much fun to scroll through the hashtag and comment on each photo, reading about daily progress. It's especially fun when I get to help celebrate a finish! What has been fun, too, is seeing that other challenge participants are also scrolling the hashtag, commenting and celebrating. It's a WIP finishing party that spans several continents and I love it!

My dragon cross stitch was the project that started the whole challenge and I'm slowly picking away at finishing it. I worried that my IG followers might get sick of seeing it, since it's not a quilt, but that doesn't seem to be the case at all. Every post about the dragon will get comments like "the dragon is looking so good!" or "you're making so much progress!" or "you're really rocking along!" The encouragement always feels great and helps keep me motivated to work on the backstitching again the next day.

Writing to the Thessalonians, Paul said, "encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing" (1 Thessalonians 5:11). That was the last sentence in a section about being alert and aware, ready for when Jesus will come again and it was directed at all of the people, not just the head of the church. The implication was that everyone would be involved with encouraging and lifting up all of the other believers around them, knowing that this would help everyone to stay focused on God.

The world can be distracting and discouraging. It's easy to get pulled into the messiness of life and to let our focus shift away from God. What a difference it makes if we have an encourager, though! Someone who can cheer us on, who can lift us up when we're having a hard day, who will remind us that "Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever" (v. 10).
Encouraging others doesn't cost us anything |
Encouraging others doesn't cost us anything and it doesn't require a lot of time or special training. All it takes is a willingness to focus on the people around us and to cheer them on. With just a little effort, we could all be spreading encouragement everywhere we go. 

November 01, 2021


 Devotion for the Week...

I find my devotions here are often triggered by my morning Bible reading, so you can almost trace my progress though the Old Testament by which book I'm sharing from on a Monday morning. This week I moved into the book of Esther and one particular moment stood out for me in light of current social justice conversations.

Some quick backstory from Esther chapters 1-3 - King Xerxes had a beautiful queen and in a drunken moment he commanded her to appear before his guests wearing her crown (I have heard that some scholars believe the command meant she should come wearing only the crown), and when she refused he deposed her as queen. Some time later he was lonely and decided to hold a beauty pageant of sorts to find a new queen. There's a whole issue there on the treatment of women, but that's not today's post. A young Jew named Esther was chosen as the new queen, though she kept her Jewish ancestry a secret. Then King Xerxes promoted a man named Haman to be the most powerful official in the kingdom and everyone bowed down to Haman. Everyone, that is, except Esther's uncle Mordecai. Haman flew into a rage over Mordecai's disrespect and he decided that punishing only Mordecai would not be enough. Instead, he convinced the king to issue a decree that on a specific day anyone at all could kill all of the Jews in the land with no repercussions at all.

"When Mordecai learned about all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on burlap and ashes, and went out into the city, crying with a loud and bitter wail. He went as far as the gate of the palace, for no one was allowed to enter the palace gate while wearing clothes of mourning. And as news of the king’s decree reached all the provinces, there was great mourning among the Jews. They fasted, wept, and wailed, and many people lay in burlap and ashes" (Esther 4:1-3). The Jews everywhere were justifiably upset by the king's decree. Can you even imagine the talk and the panic that spread through the Jewish communities?

When Esther learned that Mordecai was dressed in mourning clothes and sitting at the palace gates, she sent one of her servants "to go to Mordecai and find out what was troubling him and why he was in mourning" (v. 5). And that was the moment that stopped me in my tracks. Esther, tucked away in the safety of the palace, was completely oblivious to what was going on in the rest of the kingdom. 

How often are we oblivious to the plight of others? We may not see the difficulties of the poor because we've never had to wonder where our next meal will come from. Or maybe we don't know the worries the homeless deal with because we've always had a safe place to live. Maybe we can't see the complexities that make it hard for a person to leave an abusive relationship because our relationships have always been healthy ones. Certainly those of us who are white do not understand the hardships faced by people of colour purely because of the colour of their skin.

Esther didn't know about the threat facing her people because she was separated from them, just as keeping ourselves apart from others prevents us from knowing what they face. Getting to know their situations is the first step in helping fix the problems. That has to be a conscious choice, though. 
Keeping ourselves apart from others prevents us from knowing what they face |
In the following chapters, Esther steps up and pleads her case to King Xerxes, thereby saving the Jews (that's the super simplified version). There are three factors to her being able to save them: first, she was aware of the problem; second, she had the position to be able to do something about it; third, she did what needed to be done.

How can we be like Esther? There's no shortage of problems to be fixed in our society. While not many of us hold political office or have the funds to make huge donations, there are ways to use the positions and influence we do have, however small we may think they are. So the question becomes, will we do what needs to be done?