Friday, September 15, 2017

Orange Peels and Pebbles--the "Who Cares" Project

Current Project: Petal Burst Table Topper from Sedef Imer's book Quilt Petite.

Hangup #1: I didn't really like my combination of fabrics (which you can't see here) 100%. But I had already cut them out and spent lots of time sewing the interfacing on the back. One of the fabrics is a script text print. Another is this farm print. Not sure they go together. Who cares.

Hangup #2: Drawing the guide lines for placing the appliqué was a little daunting to me. Who cares. I did it anyway, and it was no problem.

Hangup #3: Blanket-stitching all 42 little pieces of appliqué was a new skill. Slow and steady wins the race. No one said it had to be perfect. Who cares if it's a little wonky.

Hangup #4: Free-motion quilting is my nemesis, the thing that could just ruin this project for me. No one said it had to be perfect, and it's definitely not. There are puckers on the back, but who cares. No one will look back there. It's imperfect, but finished, and I feel like I conquered that thing I was most afraid of.

All that's left is to bind it. It's interesting what a love/hate relationship you have with some projects. This one definitely has had both sides of the coin. But who will imperfect finished project is better than a perfect unfinished one.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017


Now three weeks into school, we have carved our routine out into predictable patterns on the tablets of this new year. The freshness, always pleasant and invigorating, is turning into normalcy. The books are showing their first marks of wear. The pencils' erasers are not perfectly pink anymore. And here is where the hard work starts, where the put-your-head-down-and-just-do-it attitude must kick into gear.

This year I chose the word "diligence" as our year's virtue to concentrate on. On the first day of school we see a giant pile of books, so many chapters to be read, questions to answer, ideas to wrestle with. For myself, I see attitudes to be dealt with, relationships to be nurtured, the mountain of work it takes to feed and care for a large family while also working my job from home. Oh, it is all a gift. It is all wonderful stuff, but it does look like Mt. Everest at the very beginning. How will we get to the top? Will we survive?

Diligence and discouragement are like feuding cousins, that second one always lurking about, tempting you around every corner. But diligence will always win the prize, and her fruit is sweet. Diligence has a far-sighted, optimistic perspective, but she always takes advantage of the present moment. Discouragement has a blurred and shortened view of things. She feels alone and unable, seeking momentary pleasure here and there. Diligence asks for help from those around her. She knows she has an army of helpers surrounding her. She laughs at the time to come because her hope is in something much grander than herself. I know which one I want to be like.

Will we survive this mountain? The resounding answer is "yes!". Along with all these gifts of work God has given us, He has given us a way to achieve it. Diligence is a real key here. We do it, asking for His help each moment, chapter by chapter, day by day, one little bit at a time. I can't wait until the end of the year when we get to celebrate what's behind us, what God helped us accomplish. We will get there, with our heads down and blinders on, one little step at a time.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

She Thought She Would Stay Forever

Summer came with her bags packed, and she thought she would stay forever. She did come with beautiful and tasty gifts. But she should have known it would have to come to an end. A sweet end, no doubt, but an end no less. All the most glorious clothes do grow old and moth-eaten. She came to remind us of that.

This scrappy quilt top was a summer project I made up to use some extra HSTs. I didn't have much of a plan except to add enough sashing to make each square measure 5 inches (or so), then just to randomly put them all together. There was not much thought involved, and it got rid of some scraps. Win.

Summer is turning into golden glory. She has been beautiful, but she is old and tired and ready to go to sleep for another winter. But first she must make her blazing exit.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

My Trees Grow Diamonds

A couple recent projects to cross off my current list

This is the Wonky Love Block from Kelbysews, a free pattern that I stitched up for a little challenge hosted by Stash Builder Box, who sent out the Art Gallery fabric (Nightfall by Maureen Cracknell) so that several of us could sew this block to be included in a charity quilt project. I will be sending the block back to them, but I am definitely inspired to make more like it. I am already working with my daughter on another one with fabrics she chose.

At first the blast of color inside the "O" seemed like not such a good idea. But I left it, and it has grown on me. I like the bold stroke.

Here is a finished mini-quilt top that I am glad to be done with. These are not my favorite colors, but I wanted to cut into some fabric that I don't like as much. It inspires me to be brave and use more of my stash. It's kind of like decluttering. Once you start, you get on a roll.

And may I just say, this pattern was a pain to piece! Too many points to match and unpredictable triangles to throw me off. Don't look too closely!

Speaking of cutting into the stash, I am still really trying to be good about not buying new fabric. The longer I "freeze," the easier it has gotten to stop impulse-buying. I am not wasting as much time perusing all the sale sections online (though I still have my favorite flash-sale haunts to visit every day!), and I am not spending as much money on fabric that will just sit there. I have bought a little, but I try to allow myself a little freedom to take advantage of a really good sale or thrifty find.

There is still color around here, though the crispy, dry leaves are no longer. We have had the rainiest fall in a long time.

I take the same walks over and over again, but I always try to find new things or look at the same things from a different perspective. It's a good life lesson, and it also inspires creativity.

Mossy carpet turns into a fairy wonderland when you get up really close.

The gross rainy day also holds treasures of beauty, if you just look around. When else do the ditches turn into rippling creeks? We enjoy just stopping and listening...can you hear it?

Finally, my favorite part of rainy weather is the sun break. The droplets dangle and sparkle like a million tiny diamonds in the trees, and it takes my breath away every time. See, it just depends on your perspective. From this side of things, my trees grow diamonds, and I am rich!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Pete and Sarah

Years fly by, and memories fade a little, but they seem to get sweeter with time. It is a gift to remember people you have known, even if your time together was short.

It's a gift to sit with older people and listen to their stories. I am grateful for the wealth of wisdom they have shared with me over the years. I spent summers as a teenager volunteering in the hospital, sitting by many bedsides reading to folks, listening to music, playing games, reminiscing. On the surface of things, I was doing them a service. But in reality, they were giving me a gift. That was a very formative experience in my life.

A little later on in my teenage years, I began cleaning house for an elderly couple in my church. They were still fairly independent, but they needed someone to touch up the house, so they said. First, they were immaculate housekeepers, so there wasn't much to touch up. Second, they probably were yearning for someone to spend time with them. So I did. Looking back, I see what a gift that was, not for them, but for me.

They were quiet people, but so full of stories. I heard many times about how they got engaged. He gave her a watch instead of a ring, and they would chuckle about how he would always ask her what time it was just to get her to admire that watch. We would sit together with our iced tea (that was so, so good and southern sweet!), and I would listen to their stories of seminary, raising kids, pastoring a church, and all in between.

Pete and Sarah, those were their names. They loved each other so much. I loved observing their aged, seasoned marriage, tested by time and proven true. As I was on the cusp of my own marriage, they gave me the gift of example that I cherish to this day.

I admired their attention to detail. As I said, their house was always neat. They were very methodical, orderly, and thrifty. Sarah had a sewing machine. I never saw her use it, but I know she did. She would make her clothes and things around the house. That doll in the picture above came from her. The stitching is perfect, and I am sure it was made from some scrap of something she had. They are both gone now, but I am grateful to have something she made to remind me of the time we shared together.

As I sit stitching this and that, night after night, I sometimes wonder if it is a luxury I can't afford. Time is precious. But you can't put a price on the things you make and give. When I look at the things I have from those I love, I see that their time and creativity is a priceless gift money could never buy. Those things spark my memory, warm my heart (and body), and remind me of their love.

Hug. xo

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Heart Cries

We have often said that our best friends are the ones who live in the books on our shelves. If that is true, we have a myriad of them. Our shelves sag with books we have collected over the years. One special collection, probably my favorite (besides my music scores) is our shelf of missionary biographies. They have shaped us and inspired us to strive for spiritual maturity and lives of unselfish service. If I want to know how to be a better wife or mother, I know to go to my Bible first, and then to a biography of someone who has lived the life and walked the path. Susannah Wesley, the prayer warrior. The wives of Adoniram Judson (he was bereaved 2 times).  Elisabeth Elliot, wife of a martyr. The wife of Jonathan Edwards. Betty Stam, martyred for her faith. Unmarried missionaries like Amy Carmichael and Isobel Kuhn. And the list goes on. Looking past our theological differences (there are many everywhere you turn), it is good to get to know them as sisters in Christ who lived fully and faithfully. I want to be like them.

We have many brothers to speak to us as well. Hudson Taylor, pioneering missionary to China.  Adoniram Judson, who endured unspeakable torture at the hands of the Burmese to whom he preached. John Paton, missionary to cannibals. The five men who were murdered by the Auca Indians in Ecuador. They gave all, nothing held back, no regrets. I want to be like them.

But here I am in my warm, comfortable house. I am not suffering for my faith like they did. I am fairly certain there will be food on my table tomorrow. For years I have imagined and hoped that maybe God would call me to serve somewhere far away. He hasn't. He has put me here, today, right now, to serve in this place. Changing diapers. Washing dishes. Reading picture books to my kids. Scrubbing the floor. Helping my husband. That is my mission field, and it is no less important than Burma or China or Ukraine.

Still, I feel that tug at my heart strings to give all, no matter what. Be sold out for Jesus. Don't squander time away. We are only given one life; live it without regrets, attempting great things for God. Great things might look mundane, but don't be deceived. What's done for Jesus will last an eternity.

Wherever you are, be all there
--Jim Elliot

No reserves, no retreats, no regrets.
--William Borden

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.
--Jim Elliot

 Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.
--William Carey

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Sing a Song of Songda

I have heard Seattle weather compared to a beautiful woman who is often sick. But when she is well, she is decked out in her finest clothes and is stunningly beautiful. The stunning beauty was last week. Absolute flawless perfection.

And then the rains came. And the all-but-promised forecast of the worst windstorm in 10 years. Her name was Songda, not the gorgeous blue-skied woman of last week, but a threatening and boisterous typhoon rolling in from the Pacific Ocean.

Our town was a flurry of grocery shoppers, gas lines, last-minute generator purchases, and a run on D-batteries. Because, folks, the power was certainly going to go out. Possibly for days.

On Friday, when the rain let up for a while, I took a walk just to take in the eerie beauty, the strange calm before the storm we were told was going to probably be bad, maybe very bad.

I baked and cooked and washed clothes, froze what meat I had in the refrigerator to try to preserve it as long as possible. And we all prayed. We prayed the lights would stay on, that the storm would just dissipate, even though looking at the radar models, this storm looked threatening and scary.

I had friends checking into a hotel, taking no chances that they would be home to experience the frightening wind that hit them 10 years ago. We had friends visiting from other states and countries last week, and some of them were booking earlier flights home to avoid the storm.

This is the Saturday afternoon sky, an hour before the storm was set to roll into Seattle, strange patches of blue and still that ominous calm. We waited...

And waited...

And here is the survey of the damage. Unbelievable.

No one can explain it. The weather forecasters are scratching their heads. And those of us who prayed  to God know exactly why that storm fizzled out. God is kind and merciful. We deserved every bit of that wind and its destruction, but He stopped it in its tracks. He heard those prayers and commanded those winds to be still.

I had a friend recently go through a similar "stormy" experience, this time with a child's health. We all prayed for her impending major surgery, that it would be successful, that she would heal, all the common things we ask in that situation. But we didn't think to pray that God would just remove the issue altogether. Doctors went in to do the surgery, and the problem had completely disappeared. Why didn't we ask Him to do that in the first place? Why are we stingy with our prayers?

I take this away: we should not be afraid to ask God to do specific things! He is not small, He is not deaf to our requests, and He is not a scolding Father if we are faithful children. He is delighted with our prayers. So pray away, in faith that He will do great things!