July 29, 2015

Baby Quilt Blocks

I'm about halfway through making the blocks for the baby quilt I'm working on. There are 25 blocks in the quilt, and I have 12 finished and three more almost finished. The double friendship star blocks will go all the way around the quilt, surrounding the small friendship stars.

I'm calling this design "Friendship Galaxy" and the pattern is almost ready to go out to my pattern testers. The pattern will have several size variations, including a couple of mini quilt options. The baby quilt finishes at 45" square.

I shared the test blocks I made here and I'm amazed at how different these blocks look with different fabrics!

I don't usually sew with large scale prints. I find them hard to work with because they tend to overpower other fabrics and make it harder to distinguish the piecing. However, these Connecting Threads rockets were just too cute to resist, especially since my friends know they are having a boy.

That being said, I have made one block where the small friendship star seemed to disappear. Close-up like this the block doesn't look too bad, but move any farther away and the star pretty much vanishes. Not exactly the effect I was going for!
 What are you working on this week?

Linking up with Let's Bee Social and WIP Wednesday.

July 20, 2015

Living Coherently

Devotion for the Week...

You've probably heard the saying, "You can please all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you can't please all of the people all of the time." How true! Even with something as mundane as meal planning, I have to consider the likes and dislikes of 5 people in order to keep everyone relatively happy. Aiden is like me and would happily eat pasta at most meals, while Zachary doesn't mind pasta, per se, but he eats the smallest portion of anyone. Zachary's favourite food is Caesar salad. Aiden won't eat lettuce. Spicy foods aren't overly popular with the boys, while Paul often checks out hot sauces at the store, looking for new and hotter versions to try. I don't like peppers at all, but Nathan absolutely loves them, and sometimes reminds me I haven't bought any lately. And then, of course, there are those times I try a new recipe and someone doesn't like it. That's when they get themselves either toast or cereal for supper!

Trying to keep everyone in my family happy with my meal choices is a good thing since I'm responsible for keeping them all fed and healthy. Trying to keep everyone in my life happy with all of my choices is an entirely different matter. Trying to make everyone in my life live according to my choices would be even worse.

I enjoy The Message because it is a paraphrase of the Bible, written in today's language, that often makes me think differently about a particular passage. Sometimes I'm reading it on my phone and something captures my interest, so I take a screenshot of it so I can look at it again later. Last week I went through some of those old screenshots and found this passage:

"Cultivate your own relationship with God, but don’t impose it on others. You’re fortunate if your behavior and your belief are coherent. But if you’re not sure, if you notice that you are acting in ways inconsistent with what you believe—some days trying to impose your opinions on others, other days just trying to please them—then you know that you’re out of line. If the way you live isn’t consistent with what you believe, then it’s wrong" (Romans 14:22,23 MSG).

I was struck by the contrast between being consistent in living out what you believe and trying to please others. Sometimes living according to what we believe will please others. Employers like honest, hardworking employees, after all, and people like those who are humble and willing to help as needed. Sometimes, though, living according to what we believe will not please people. In fact, it might make them uncomfortable, or even angry, because it goes against what they believe is right, or necessary.

As I said at the top of the post, the problem with trying to please everyone all the time is that it's impossible. No matter what we do, there will be someone who doesn't like it. Trying to keep everyone happy with all of our choices and decisions would be a lesson in frustration. We'd be constantly chasing after approval, always feeling like what we're doing is wrong and trying to change ourselves to make others happy.


Regardless of what others think, we are supposed to live out what we believe. That's not easy, though, is it? We want to please other people, to have them like us. We certainly don't want to have them make fun of us, or to stand out as being different. But we have to be careful not to seek after that approval, to make it our idol. "If the way you live isn’t consistent with what you believe, then it’s wrong" (v 23). This NIV translation of that verse says, "everything that does not come from faith is sin." Simply put, altering our behavior to please people rather than living according to what we believe God wants us do to is sinful.
 
The flip side of this? We can't force other people to live their lives our way. The people around us will make lots of choices we don't like. Many of them won't be right or wrong, biblically speaking, but will fall into that grey area where we each have to make our own choices. I find it interesting, too, that this passage wasn't written about believers imposing their beliefs on non-believers, but about believers who were arguing among themselves about what was right in a particular grey area common to their time. "Cultivate your own relationship with God, but don’t impose it on others" (v 22), they were told. That can be tough, can't it? When we believe something strongly, it's hard not to try to force others to live according to what we believe. And yet that's what we're told to do. Work out those grey areas for ourselves, then leave others to work them out in their own way.

So, how do you measure up against these verses? Are your behavior and beliefs coherent? Are you able to live according to what you believe without imposing your beliefs on others? Or are you like me, finding room for improvement? Thankfully our God assures us that we "can do all this through him who gives [us] strength" (Philippians 4:13).


**My parents will be visiting this week, so there will be no devotion next Monday, though I will probably post a short passage to give us all something to think about. Regular weekly devotions will resume on August 3rd.**






July 14, 2015

For Keeps Pledge Blocks

I've mentioned before that I love Amy Gibson of Stitchery Dickory Dock. As part of the launch for her book, For Keeps: Meaningful Patchwork for Everyday Living, Amy has created the For Keeps pledge, which you can see here. Those who take the pledge are given a free pattern for an adorable house block, along with the option of making blocks to send to Amy, who will make quilts from all the donated blocks. The quilts will then be donated to an organization that gives quilts to local victims of crime and trauma - the same organization where Amy first learned to sew. Isn't that wonderful?

Amy asked for blocks in either navy and mustard or coral and aqua, using all unwashed fabric. I prewash all of my fabric, so that meant I had to go buy a couple of new fabrics rather than using what I already had. Oh, the sacrifices we make, right?
As you can see, I went with the coral and aqua combo and I love how bright and cheerful these houses look. All of these fabrics are from Connecting Threads. I've ordered from them a few times now and I'm always pleased with their fabric, and their reasonable shipping to Canada. No affiliation here, either, just letting you know they're well worth checking out.

These blocks will be in the mail to Amy today. I can't wait to see the quilts she makes with all the donated blocks!

July 13, 2015

Considering Appearances

Devotion for the Week...

I will be 38 on Thursday. While I don't consider myself old, I do realize that is a matter of opinion. After all, Aiden, when he was about 5, once asked me if we used feather pens when I was in school! Then, when he was about 9 or 10, he made reference to something that had happened "way back in the 1900s." Way to make a mom feel young, right? On the other hand, about a month ago we had lunch with an 87-year-old retired pastor, who said 70 looks pretty young from his vantage point.

There is no denying that getting old is not easy. Our bodies start to wear out. Parts creak and ache and refuse to do the jobs they used to so easily do. The mind isn't immune to problems as we age, either, and 'senior moments' plague lots of people. Unfortunately, though, while our culture is obsessed with youth, our collective obsession has little to do with function and much more to do with appearance. Grey hair and wrinkles are to be covered up or erased at all costs.The anti-aging industry is big business.

The June 29, 2015 issue of Time magazine featured a cover article titled "Nip. Tuck. Or Else," by Joel Stein, which I found very interesting. The article talks about how plastic surgery has become so much more commonplace in recent years, to the point where those who don't renovate themselves in some way will soon be in the minority. Many people are not actually using surgical methods to change their appearance, but instead using less invasive treatments like Botox to hide any possible sign of aging.

The fact that our culture is obsessed with pretending to stay forever young is nothing new. But it does make me wonder at what point our refusal to show our age becomes a problem. "But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7).

To give you a little context, Samuel has come to anoint one of the sons of Jesse as the next king of Israel. He sees the first son, Eliab, and immediately thinks this is the one God intends to have become king, but God quickly sets Samuel straight. "Do not consider his appearance or his height," God says. I think it's interesting that the Bible doesn't actually tell us what Eliab looks like. I think it's safe to assume he was good looking and tall, but there's no description of him given. What he looked like was irrelevant, because his heart wasn't right.

So, how are our hearts? Do we spend time making sure they look good to God? Time in prayer and reading the Bible are good ways to take care of our hearts. Applying God's word to our attitudes and actions will make our hearts right too, as will confessing any wrongs we have done. Mostly, though, I think that God is looking for people who rely on Him. Having accepted Christ as our Savior and trying our best to live out His commands through His power in us will give us hearts that please our God.

I don't think there's anything wrong with taking care of our bodies, of course, or with trying to look our best. In fact, just before Samuel is told to anoint Jesse's son David as the future king, we are told, "He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features" (v. 12). Obviously God has nothing against a person who looks good.

As in so many other areas of life, though, it's a matter of balance. Where are we putting our focus? What is our primary concern? If we are spending the bulk of our time (and money) focused on our outward appearance, then what does that say about our hearts?  What does it say about our relationship with God if we are focused on something He doesn't care about?

July 09, 2015

Finish-a-Long 2015 - Quarter 3 Goals

Here we are again, ready to set some sewing goals for the next quarter of the year and link them up with Adrienne at On the Windy Side. Before I set my goals for this quarter, I would just like to point out that my Craft It Forward gifts are not on the list this time around!! They're finally all finished, though one is still en route to its recipient, so I haven't shared that one yet.

So, what am I hoping to finish over the next three months? Here goes:

1. The wedding quilt. I've started quilting it, so it's well underway. The straight line quilting will soon be finished and then I can move onto the fun free motion stuff. I can't wait!
2. I made this little skinny mini quilt top out of some test blocks for a baby quilt I'm planning. I have some backing fabric ordered, so I want to finish this one up once that arrives.
3. A baby quilt for friends who are expecting their first baby in September. The fabrics are ordered and the test blocks are made (see above), so I can't wait to get started! I'm planning to write up the pattern for this one, so if you're interested in testing it for me, just let me know in the comments. There will be no paper piecing or applique in the pattern, just plain machine piecing, and the test blocks in the skinny mini quilt are the only blocks. I also plan to have a couple of different size options in the pattern.

Well, that looks like a pretty tiny list, but we're hoping to do a fair bit of camping and hiking over the summer, and quilting the wedding quilt is going to take a lot of time, so I think I'll stop there. Maybe with only three items on the list I could actually finish everything? We'll see how it goes

July 06, 2015

Among Thorns

Devotion for the Week...

We have a wood furnace to heat our house. Shortly after we installed the furnace, we also bought a carbon monoxide detector. Carbon monoxide is a sneaky danger because it is colourless, odorless, tasteless and potentially deadly. According to How Stuff Works, carbon monoxide is poisonous to us because it binds more strongly to our hemoglobin than oxygen does. That means that if carbon monoxide is present, it will bind to a person's hemoglobin where oxygen should bind, making it impossible for oxygen to bind there, and eventually the person will suffocate. The oxygen is squeezed out and replaced by the carbon monoxide.

I thought of this when I read one of Jesus' parables which I have read many times before. The parable of the sower goes something like this: a farmer goes out to plant seed. On the way, some falls on the road and gets eaten by birds; some seed falls on the rocks where it has no room to grow roots; some falls among the thorns which choke it out and some falls on good ground where it grows and produces a harvest. The meaning of the parable is relatively simple. The farmer is the person who sows the word of God. The seed on the path is symbolic of the person who hears the word of God but never accepts it. The seed among the rocks is the person who accepts the word of God, but has no depth so he falls away as soon as there is trouble. The seed among the thorns is also a person who hears the word, but they're so worried about the things of this world that the word of God is choked out of their life. The seed on good ground, of course, is the person who accepts the word of God, does their best to live accordingly and so lives a fruitful life.

Whenever I've read the parable before, I've always thought it referred only to those who are hearing the word of God for the first time, those who are hearing that Jesus died to offer them forgiveness for their sins. But this time I considered the application for those of us who are already believers. After all, we hear, or read, the word of God regularly. I was struck especially by the seed that is choked out by the thorns, or weeds. "The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful" (Matthew 13:22).

The worries of this life...the deceitfulness of wealth.

How much of life are summed up in those two phrases? How often do we not really hear a sermon because we are too busy thinking about meal plans, or company we'll be seeing later in the week, or the clothes our kids need, or the vacation we can't wait to take in a few weeks? Or how often are we more focused on earning/spending/saving our money rather than on how we could be living like Jesus?

It is harder for oxygen to bind to hemoglobin, so we have to take precautions to make sure carbon monoxide doesn't crowd out the oxygen. Unfortunately, it is also harder to live according to God's word. First of all, we have to spend time with His word, focused time and not just time sitting in a church pew not really paying attention to the sermon. Ideally, we should also be reading the Word for ourselves, and that's certainly not always easy. The worries of this life, the stuff that has to get done each day just to keep our households running, can easily take up every moment of our day. If we wait to 'have time' to read the Bible it likely won't happen. We have to make a conscious effort to make time to read the Bible. During the school year, I find this relatively easy because I set my alarm a bit earlier than I need to be up, then spend that extra time reading my Bible. Unfortunately, once summer vacation arrives, that plan goes right out the window because I'm no longer setting an alarm at all. I'm still struggling to find a time that I will stick to consistently.

Then, of course, once we know how God wants us to live, we have to actually follow through and live that way. But that's not always easy either. Living God's way will sometimes mean standing out from the crowd and acting differently. Are we willing to do that, or are we more worried about fitting in?

Seeds planted among thorns won't grow well unless the farmer pulls up the thorns. Carbon monoxide will beat out oxygen every time. In the same way, we have to be diligent about removing those things that would crowd out the Word of God.

July 01, 2015

Canada Day Treasure Hunting

Happy Canada Day!

Aiden is away at church camp this week (which he tells me is 'awesome!'), but the rest of us had a great time today hiking and looking for treasures along a nearby hiking trail and beach. Judging by how many pictures Paul and I took between us, we found lots of treasures! Here are a few I wanted to share.

These beach peas were so dainty and beautiful.
I love this shot of Nathan looking for creatures in the pool of water.
Zachary found a nice place to lounge for a few minutes.
I love looking for shells, pretty rocks, bits of coral and sea glass and these beaches have all of it in spades!
The rock formations in this area are really amazing. I can't get over how there are so many bends and folds in the rock (none of which photographed well today, of course). I'm not sure what kind of rock this is, or how it eroded in this way, but it looks amazing!
There are many places where there are veins of a different rock in the midst of the usual grey rock, which I think is shale, or maybe slate.
I like knowing the names of things, so I have a wildflowers book and a bird book to help me identify the different ones I see. I said today that now I need to find a rock book, because I'd love to be able to read about the different types of rocks and learn what I'm seeing. If you know of a good rock book, please let me know!

After the hike, we returned to the little picnic area, where there is another beach. The boys loved throwing rocks in the water while they waited for their hot dogs to be ready.
See the iceburg in that picture? That was our supper time entertainment. It slowly moved in closer, then started to roll. It rolled one way, then rolled back the other way, and back and forth and back and forth. Then it tipped backwards a bit, then started to spin around. It looked completely different by the time we were finished eating!

After supper we explored a little farther along the beach, climbing over more rocks, until we discovered this chunk of ice bumping up against the shore. Just think how cold that water must be!
This is my favourite kind of day - spent with family, exploring nature and coming home with beach treasures in my pockets.
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