December 15, 2014

The Gift of Joy

Devotion for the Week...

This is the third week of Advent. Click the links to read my devotions for the first two weeks of Advent, The Gift of Hope and The Gift of Peace.
This week we light the Joy candle. A few years ago, I read a book by Dan Schaeffer called In Search of the Real Spirit of Christmas, which I would highly recommend. In it, he asks, "Have you ever asked yourself what good news could affect all people equally, regardless of race, sex, income level, or location?" He goes on to say, "Initially, I thought of a cure for cancer. Surely that would be good news for all people. But then I realized that not everyone has cancer...So while a cure for cancer would be good news for those affected by cancer or for their loved ones, the benefits don't affect everyone equally."  He also considers the end of war and of poverty, but again concludes that while it would be wonderful news for those affected, it would not be good news for everyone.

So what is good news for everyone? Well, the answer is recorded in the Christmas story that we so often read. "And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:8-12).
Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you. 

That, right there, is the only good news that is equally good for 'all the people.' Not only the shepherds the angel spoke to, or the people of Bible times, or the early church, but all the people  anywhere, ever!

We all needed a Savior. We all needed someone who could bridge the gap between God and us, because we could not do it for ourselves. None of us would ever claim to be perfect, to have never done a single thing wrong. We know full well that we are not perfect, and our wrongdoing opens up a chasm that keeps us separated from a perfect, holy God. Jesus came to bridge that gap. With His death on the cross, Jesus took our place, paying the penalty of death for our sin and offering us His perfect righteousness.

There is nothing we need do to qualify for this gift, nothing we could possibly do to be worthy of it, and yet Jesus offers it to us freely. All we need to do is accept it, believing that His death paid the penalty for our sins.

All the people who have ever lived have done wrong and need a Savior. Jesus came to be that Savior, and that is good news of great joy for all people.

December 10, 2014

More Trees

I've been working on more of the free motion quilted tree ornaments I shared before.
This time I'm making them a little differently. Before, I made the ornament and then stitched the tree through both layers. Since I wasn't using batting I wanted to have the two layers of fabric to help stabilize all those stitches, but there was still a little distortion as you can see in the ornament on the right. The one on the left is made with the new method. I'm using a tear away stabilizer and only stitching the tree onto the front piece. Then, after removing the stabilizer, I put the ornament together. It makes for a much neater finished product, don't you think?
I also tried a new fmq design. I quite like the swirl-filled tree! Hopefully this evening I'll have a chance to finish the ones I have half done.

How is your Christmas sewing coming along?

December 08, 2014

The Gift of Peace

Devotion for the Week...

This is the second week of Advent. My devotion for the first week of Advent was The Gift of Hope.
This week we light the Peace candle. All week as I've been thinking about what to write for today, the verse that kept coming to mind was Jesus saying, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives" (John 14:27). For some reason, I kept thinking especially of the part when He says, "I do not give to you as the world gives." At first I had a hard time figuring out where to go with that since it didn't seem to really apply to Christmas, but then I realized it actually does fit perfectly with Christmas. 

The world offers us the expectation of peace as we approach Christmas. Christmas cards show peaceful, perfect scenes, carols tell of silent nights and winter wonderlands, and commercials show us how simple it will be to find the perfect gift for everyone. We unconsciously take in the message that Christmas is supposed to be perfect, peaceful and calm. 

Really, though, the world's offer of peace at Christmas is only an illusion. The world's Christmas emphasis is always on more...more...more.

Spend more, eat more, attend more parties, put up more lights and more inflatable decorations, buy more decorations for inside the house and bake more treats. December can feel like a giant to-do list, with no space for quiet, no time for rest.

Coupled with the expectation of rest and peace, this "most wonderful time of the year" can feel like the most stressful time of the year if we're not careful.

Jesus, on the other hand, offers us His peace. Romans 5:1,2 says, "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand." Peace with God is possible only through Jesus, through faith in Him as our Savior. 

Before Jesus died on the cross for us, the Jews followed a set of laws that governed the animal sacrifices that were required for the forgiveness of sins. The sacrifices had to be repeated according to a set schedule because no animal could be a permanent solution to the problem of sin. But Jesus is the Lamb of God, the only One who could take away sin permanently and open the way for us to have a relationship with our Heavenly Father. Because our sin is forgiven, we have peace with God. 

Jesus' physical birth, which we celebrate at Christmas, was the first step in God's plan to give us that peace. So because of Christmas, we have peace. And the peace Jesus gives is no illusion.

December 04, 2014

A Finished Tractor Quilt!

My commissioned tractor quilt is finished!
For the record, I need to find a way to take pictures of big quilts or stick to making small ones! I took this one to a friend's house to use her clothesline, and the quilt was still dragging in the snow. At least the snow was clean!

The mom who asked me to make this for her son wanted minimal quilting. She suggested only outlining the black frames around the tractors, but those frames are 15" wide. The quilting lines would have been too far apart, so I suggested outlining the tractors themselves. I love how clearly they show up on the back of the quilt.
 I used a simple, solid black for the binding, which echoes the black frames around the tractors.
I figured this would be my first finish on my Finish-a-Long list for this quarter, but it's actually my third. The others were my 'Twas the Night project and my #igminiswap quilt. That means I'm already doing better than I did last quarter when I only finished two projects, and there's still a few weeks left to this quarter. Yay for being productive!

December 02, 2014

Finished #igminiswap Quilt

I have finally finished my quilt for the #igminiswap! A couple of days past the mailing date, though. I hope my partner will forgive the delay.
I so love how this quilt turned out!
As always, I had fun picking designs for each section of the quilting. I left the dark blue pinwheels unquilted because I wanted them to pop a little.
The different colour threads really show up on the back. The pink, especially, is much brighter in person than it appears in this picture.

The yellow and the light blue were both Connecting Threads 100% polyester threads. I had a couple of thread breaks with the blue, but then I changed my needle and everything was good again. So maybe that thread is a little pickier than my usual Gutermann 100% polyester, but other than that I've been pleased with the thread so far.
I added the triangles for hanging again, and a bright pink label (made as I share in my How to Make a Quilt Label tutorial). The label is shown here sporting a digital bandage over the recipient's name lest anyone think they could figure out where this is headed.

Over the weekend I read a 3-part series of posts about better project photography and the number one tip she shared was shoot across your project. So I decided to try it this afternoon when I was photographing this quilt. The picture at the top of this post was my favourite from the whole session! What a difference it makes shooting across a quilt rather than straight at it. It changes the whole feel of the picture. I strongly recommend the series, especially if you're like me and feel your photography is less than stellar.
This little quilt is destined for the mail tomorrow, to begin its journey Down Under. I sure hope my partner loves it. And now I can begin stalking my own mailbox for a little happy mail for me!

I am considering writing the pattern for this quilt. If you would be interested in testing it for me, please let me know in the comments. Thanks!
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