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!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Glow and Gloom

Now is the time to dance.

The harvest is almost gathered in.

I watched these pinecones bud and mature over the summer. Now they make me think of Christmas, especially paired with the holly berries we find close beside them.

I am hunkering down with this quilt, beginning to hand quilt it now.
I am done hand basting. Once I got the hang of it, it went quickly. I hope it is worth the extra time I put into it.

I am not an expert hand quilter. I sat down tonight and started on it. It goes pretty quickly too once you get the motion down.

I enjoy listening to my son read aloud to me every day. He is improving so quickly.

This particular page really got to me, where it says that "school must be safe because so many children went there." This was the day after tragedy struck a school very near my hometown, and a child lost his life because of someone's senseless violent anger. My mother's heart breaks for what happened. We can't shelter them everywhere all the time, but I am glad to have my kids close to me.

The clouds are rolling in, and with the sun they cast their autumn glow and gloom on the world below them.

Now is the time to dance.

We are safe and warm and fed. Thank you, God.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Gray and Green

We spent last Saturday afternoon and evening celebrating at a big party with our friends. It is an annual event that the kids look forward to for weeks every year. Games. Feasting. Friends. Music. A celebration of the good life God has given us. We remember that He has made us like green flourishing trees, fruitful and abundant. And we thank Him by celebrating with these very earthy gifts He has given us.

This is part of the view from the venue of the party. It is an old seminary building built in the 1930's, but now empty and unused. It is stunning from the outside, but the inside is pretty much cold and lifeless, except for one wing (the old dining hall) that is still used for weddings and receptions. People have dreams of making it a hotel someday. I hope that someone will revive its former elegance.

We all needed that party, a time to forget the ugliness and brokenness all around us in our world today. I don't mean the sloshing around kind of forgetfulness, but a mindful forgetfulness, for a few moments, of the bad news. A purposeful remembrance of God's good gifts, the color in our world, the promise that He makes all things beautiful in His time, that there is a good purpose behind all the sadness and hurt we hear so much about. A gray and colorless palette is a landscape in which bright colors can vividly shine. God is at work in this world of ours. And when you know that, all the sudden you see the world through new eyes. Colors become more vibrant against the gray backdrop. The rainy day makes the green breathtakingly vivid. There is Hope for this world, a living and true Hope that will not disappoint.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Fall is Falling

A friend recently asked me what my favorite season was. Unequivocally, spring. No doubt about it. I love new life, longer days, warmer temperatures, the end of the school year. It thrills me.

Fall is hard for me to embrace. It is beautiful, but in a sad sort of way. It is like a last dying breath, a short-lived blaze of glory before everything goes to sleep. Oh, I know that spring will come again. The seeds fall into the ground and wait for their day. Hope buries itself in the earth, and we have to wait for a resurrection. There is a sort of pain in my soul every year when September comes around. I don't like it when things die.

This September has been a typical gorgeous curtain call. The actors are taking their final bows, and the play is over. And they are very flamboyant about it all, hanging on to the applause until the very last possible moment.

The last flowers of the season.

Seattle September Skies

These colors are breathtaking.

The light is golden, and the shadows are getting longer.

Green and gold

Leaves barely hanging on to the branches

This maple tree will shortly turn into blaze of red.

September is the season for spiders. We watched this one catch his supper, actually another spider!

There is a house being built just down the road. I love hearing all the machinery and construction noise. And the smells of a new of my very favorite things. It has nothing to do with September, except this year.

Around here, September means chanterelles! My husband foraged these, and we ate them. Everything about them is sensual--the color, the smell of the dirt, the delicate gills, the smell of them cooking (to me they smell like clean clothes!), the texture in your mouth. Heavenly!

And of course a September quilting project, while I can still take pictures outside. This is the backing to my Churned quilt, jelly roll race style. No math involved.

Farewell, summer! We will see you again next year!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Cultivating A Quiet Spirit

I Peter 3:3-4 "Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel—rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God."

Noise. It is all around us. Crying babies. Visual noise on our screens. Crowded schedules. Demanding people. The pressure to conform to others' standards. We feel pulled in every direction so often. Finding a moment of quiet is many times an impossible task, a luxury rarely enjoyed. I suggest we consider quietness a frame of mind, not merely a span of time.

Earlier today, my 5-year-old pulled open our glass sliding door, on a day a little too cool to need that draft. I asked him why he was doing that, and he innocently said, "I want to hear the birds." I think I melted into a puddle. He wasn't demanding quiet. In fact, he probably didn't even notice the bustle all around him. He wanted to hear the birds. He was in the frame of mind to listen, not regarding the din around him.

I have tried to make it a practice to sometimes tell the kids to stop and listen. I ask them what they hear. Attitudes change when we stop and listen to the world around us. This is really hard for small children to do, but we can try. We have to force ourselves into a mindset, stop our own mouths, and actively listen. Now this kind of external quiet is not always possible. Sometimes you can't turn the volume down.

What about that quiet spirit Peter was writing about? It is a frame of mind that remains gentle and serene even when everything and everyone around is clamoring and boisterous. It is a cultivated spirit, a garden in the middle of chaos, watered by God's Word and prayer and fellowship with other believers. It is a refreshment to all who are nearby, an oasis in a desert of worldly care and worry.

Who has planned every circumstance of my day? Do I have a right to resist Him, to let my spirit shout at Him in response to his sovereign blueprint for that moment? I am the worst culprit, letting my temper loose in moments of surprise and sudden disappointment. What if I just surrendered that [usually petty] moment, just whispered a prayer of thanks and moved on? What if instead of reacting to that child's behavior [again] I just murmured a short prayer that God would speak to Him and give me a calm response. This is not to excuse inaction on our part, but to suggest we sprinkle more prayer on those situations. Won't God hear and answer? What if I put my harried moments in the perspective of a week, a year, my lifetime, or eternity? Will I even remember or care about the broken dish or spilled glass or torn book? A quiet spirit thinks beyond today. It remembers God knows all things.

A quiet spirit is a spirit at rest. Its anchor is in the Unchangeable, so that when all around me is swirling and eddying in the tides of change, I can be confident I am safe. I can sleep peacefully and know Who holds my world together. Even when I have made my own storm, I can rest in forgiveness and security that God is there with me.

I Peter 5:10 "But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establishstrengthen, and settle you."

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Nifty Thrifty

It was a good thrifting day today! I love these old books that no one seems to notice. This one is perfect for my nature study shelf, all about Jim's adventures in the woods and all the animals he meets.

I adore the colored illustrations and plates found throughout the book.

We've been doing a pretty good job of reading the things I bring home, if they are picture books. This one will find its home in my Morning Basket for sure.

I love the life-like illustrations of the animals as well as the poems that begin each new chapter.

The mountain ash was wearing
Her beads of coral red,
And the fuzzy caterpillars
Were all looking for a bed;
The thistle birds were calling,
And the air was crisp and clear,
"Summer has gone," said Buddy Jim
And Winter'll soon be here."

And the other happy find of the day...

If it has Melody Miller's name on it, I pounce on it. Ha. Gotcha!

This book is about creative ways to wrap gifts. But it is so much more than that. It is a craft and  sewing book. It is a photographic feast for the eyes, and an enjoyable read with quotes and anecdotes all throughout.

I love the colors and vintage vibe...

Here is a project teaching you how to make a box out of a vintage board game.

There are also ideas for bags, garlands, other types of boxes, and paper crafts. So inspiring!

I love this quote...

"Things are not difficult to make. What is difficult is putting ourselves in a state of mind to make them."

And finally, I got happy mail today! Stephanie from Modern Sewciety sent me this thank you package for the Boxcar Tote I sent her recently. I love this fabric and can't wait to use it for something special. I see more surprise packages to sewing peeps in the future, because it's just really fun to make things for other people.

Happy fall, y'all.