August 22, 2016

Counting Steps

Devotion for the Week...

Last winter and into the spring, I spent a fair bit of time researching different activity trackers and trying to decide what I wanted. I needed to replace my running watch, which tracks distance, time and pace while I'm running, but I also wanted a daily step counter because I figured it would motivate me to move more. I didn't want to buy two devices, so I was looking for something that would do both well. At one point, I bought a Fitbit Surge, but promptly returned it after seeing how ridiculously huge it looked on my wrist. When I posted a picture of it on Instagram, one person compared it to wearing a 1980s television :) I finally decided on a Garmin Forerunner 235 and I love it!

It is really easy to use and to read while I'm running and the daily step counter sets goals for me based on how many steps I've been taking. If I reach my goal on one day, then the goal the next day will be a little higher. If I don't make the goal for a few days in a row then it will drop slightly. Lately I'm sure my watch thinks I'm broken because I've been watching so much Olympics that my daily goal has dropped by about 2000 steps! Now that the Olympics are over, I really need to get moving again!

Imagine my surprise a couple of weeks ago when I read in Job, "Does he not see my ways and count my every step?" (Job 31:4). I immediately looked at the watch on my arm and kind of laughed. Imagine comparing God to a watch! And yet that's exactly what I'm going to do :)

In order for my watch to count my steps, I have to be wearing it. It can't count my steps if I leave it on my dresser, or if it's sitting on the kitchen counter. The more I think about God counting my steps, the more I smile because that means He has to be right with me all the time. If He weren't with me, He'd miss the steps it takes me to walk to the post office, or the steps between my bed and the kitchen when I stumble out in the morning for breakfast. But He doesn't miss those steps because He is with me every moment, all day long. We are told several times in the Bible that God will never leave us (Hebrews 13:5, Deuteronomy 31:6 and 31:8 and Joshua 1:5). And Jesus told His disciples, "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:20).

Now, I have read or heard those verses many, many times. I have known for years that God is always with me, but I've kind of thought of it in a rather general sense. Kind of like I'm with Paul and Aiden right now because we're all in the house together, but Aiden is playing his guitar in his room and Paul is working on his computer while I'm typing on my laptop. We're all here together, but we're not really paying attention to each other, know what I mean?

But God's not just here with us in a general sense. He is paying close attention to us, so much so that He knows what we're doing - all the time.

Also, in order for my watch to count my steps, it has to be turned on. Though the Garmin does track sleep, I don't bother to wear it at night, so if I don't turn it back on in the morning it wouldn't matter at all if I had it on my wrist or not. It also wouldn't matter if I was wearing it or not if the battery were dead. Likewise, if God were asleep or dead then He wouldn't see my steps. But He's not alseep or dead! Jesus said in Revelation 1:18, "I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever!" And Psalm 121:3,4 says, "He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep." Isn't that reassuring? God doesn't miss a single step we take.
Weekly devotions |

Of course, God's interest in counting our steps doesn't have anything to do with our activity level. He probably doesn't care much if I take 3000 steps today or 15000. If we look at the verse from Job in context, we see what Job is talking about. Here is Job 31: 1- 8:
I made a covenant with my eyes
    not to look lustfully at a young woman
For what is our lot from God above,
    our heritage from the Almighty on high?
Is it not ruin for the wicked,
    disaster for those who do wrong?
Does he not see my ways
    and count my every step?
“If I have walked with falsehood
    or my foot has hurried after deceit—
let God weigh me in honest scales
    and he will know that I am blameless—
if my steps have turned from the path,
    if my heart has been led by my eyes,
    or if my hands have been defiled,
then may others eat what I have sown,
    and may my crops be uprooted."

Job continues on in this vein for quite a bit longer, but I think you get the idea. It is not that God counts our steps to keep us moving, or even that He keeps a running tally in His head for each of us. It's more the idea that God cares strongly about how we live...where our steps have taken us, so to speak. As always, it is our heart and attitude that matters most and both are often revealed by the steps we take.

August 16, 2016

Then...and Now Linky Party

Welcome to the Then...and Now linky party!
Then..and Now Linky Party |

We quilters spend hours with our noses only inches from our quilts. We know every stitch that's out of place, every seam that went a little wonky and every place where the points didn't match up. Because of that, we are often our own worst critics.

We are always trying to make our current quilt better than our last one. There's nothing wrong with fact, it's great to keep learning and improving our skills...but sometimes we forget to look back and see how far we've come. We're so focused on what we can't do right yet that we barely even notice the things we've mastered. Let's fix that!

Let's take a look back, really look at some of our earlier quilts and then at our more recent quilts. Let's celebrate all the things we've learned to do, or to do better, whether that's free motion quilting, cutting more accurately, trimming units so points match up better, foundation paper piecing, hand applique...There are many skills we may have learned, so let's celebrate them all!

Write up a blog post sharing where your skills used to be and where they are now. Then link up here and we'll all celebrate together :) Don't forget to add a link back here in your post so others can join in too. Here's a handy-dandy button you can use, too.
Devoted Quilter

And if your new skills are in knitting, crocheting, garment sewing, or whatever other fiber art you're currently obsessed with, let's celebrate that too!

This linky party will stay open until August 31st, so check back later and visit some other link-ups and celebrate their progress.

My FMQ Then...and Now!

I've been noticing for a while that we quilters (and makers in general) are our own worst critics. We know (and often share) everything that is wrong with our quilts, but we don't often celebrate the things we've learned to do well. I think it's time we shift our focus, so I'm hosting the Then...and Now linky party for the remainder of August. Look back at your earlier quilts and write up a blog post about any (or all!) of the many things you can now do better, then link it up with the party.
Then...and Now Linky Party |

I don't own any of my earliest quilts, so though I know for certain my first one was pretty bad, I can't really compare them with my current quilts. I certainly can compare my machine quilting though!

I started quilting in 1997 and for years (as in 12 or so years) I was convinced that hand quilting was the only proper way to finish a quilt. As in, machine quilting was cheating. Yep, I was that terribly judgemental hand quilter :(

Then this quilt took me 6 years to finish, mostly because I kept putting it away for months at a time because the hand quilting was taking f.o.r.e.v.e.r.
Noah's Ark Quilt |
Pattern from A Quilter's Ark by Margaret Rolfe
Around this time, I started realizing two things. First, I wouldn't finish very many quilts if I insisted on hand quilting everything. And second, I could never even consider attempting any of the incredibly detailed quilting I loved in magazines if I insisted on hand quilting everything, unless I was willing to do all of my incredibly detailed quilting on quilts no larger than coasters. While I love mini mini quilts, I want to make big quilts at least some of the time!

For Christmas one year I decided to make a bunch of small wallhangings as gifts and I machine quilted them all. It was a breakthrough moment! I could make 6 gifts and actually finish them in time for Christmas and I really liked the way the (very minimal) machine quilting looked.

That was the year my husband gave me a new sewing machine for Christmas and shortly after Christmas I ordered a walking foot and a darning foot for the new machine and set about trying to learn machine quilting. Enter Craftsy, with their many machine quilting classes. The first one I took was Machine Quilting, with Wendy Butler Burns and I've since taken Craftsy classes with Cindy Needham, Angela Walters and Christina Cameli. Those links are affiliate links.

This was one of my earliest attempts at free motion quilting. I had no idea what I was doing...I was just trying to imitate the quilting done on the quilt in the magazine. I confess I can't remember which magazine or who designed it. Sorry!
Spring quilt |
 You can see my lines are anything but smooth.
Early fmq |

More early fmq |
Those spirals, and everything else actually, are crazy awkward and cramped! I love this quilt, though. It hangs on the wall in our upstairs hallway and I love looking at every one of those awkward lines :) It's a great reminder of how far I've come.

My Scrappy Log Cabin quilt took me over a year to quilt (again because I kept leaving it for other things!) and I saw a lot of improvement in that time. The spirals on the left are one of the first blocks I did and the spirals on the right are one of the last blocks. What a difference, right?
fmq progress |

Back when I was working on it, I shared pictures of both my early spirals and later spirals to show my progression, and I remember that someone commented and said something along the lines of, "Your quilting doesn't make me feel woebegone." I loved that! First of all, woebegone is an awesome word that we just don't use often enough and second, I was sharing progress pictures to show that it is possible to get better at this fmq thing. It seems crazy hard when you start and it seems like everyone else is better at it than you are, but it is possible to improve. I loved that my quilting gave her hope!

So those are the earlier quilts...and now it's time for the newer quilt for comparison :)

My Denim Hexies mini quilt is my most recent heavily quilted piece and I'm amazed by the difference in my quilting!
Denim Hexies mini quilt |

It's still not perfect. There are elements that aren't shaped as nicely as I would like and places where the travel stitching isn't right on the lines like it should be. Overall, though, I absolutely love it!

I couldn't resist creating a collage of those early spirals and the denim hexies flow quilting.
Then and Now fmq |
Seriously, that has me grinning like crazy! I can't believe how much I've improved!

So that's my Then...and Now. What's yours? Write up a post about it and link it up so I can celebrate with you!

* This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on the link and then make a purchase, I may receive a small commission. This does not affect the price you pay. *

August 15, 2016

No Law Against It

Devotion for the Week...

Thank you all for hanging out with me these past couple of months as we've considered the fruit of the Spirit. I have one more thought on the subject today and then we'll move on to something else (I promise!). In case you need a refresher, here are the links to all the previous posts in the series - the introduction, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

And, for the last time, our verse for this series is Galatians 5:22, 23, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law."

A few years ago Aiden was fascinated by stupid laws and his favourite by far was from Alberta. The law stated that when a prisoner was released from prison, he had to be given a gun, bullets and a horse!! Presumably this was to help said prisoner get out of town and therefore out of the hair of the local authorities, but doesn't it sound rather self-defeating for the authorities to arm someone they already know is a criminal?
Though some laws may be questionable, civilizations generally make laws with the intention to protect their citizens and maintain public order. Laws are written to declare which actions are so unacceptable that they will be punished by the authorities. From the major crimes (murder) to the minor ones (littering) societies outlaw all the things that they consider to be wrong. That's pretty basic, right?

And then there are God's laws. God gave His law to Moses to teach the Isrealites how to live properly, how to avoid sin and to serve Him with their whole hearts. God's law is meant to keep people safe from sin.

I find it interesting that the Bible tells us that there are no laws against any of the fruit of the Spirit. There is no law against the kind of all-encompassing love the Spirit can cause us to show. There is no law against patience in the face of trouble or against self-control when tempted to do wrong. There are no laws against these things because goodness is no threat to public order. Joy is no threat to a city's safety, and patience, well, that could do wonders if displayed a little more often.

 I think Paul pointed out that there are no laws against these things as a point of comparison. In Galatians 5, in the paragraph before we see the fruit of the Spirit, Paul writes a list of "the acts of the flesh" (v. 19), which are "sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like" (vv. 19-21), many of which are against the law. Though they may not all be against society's laws, they are all outside of God's will for us and therefore against His law. All of these actions stem from a person's desire to live entirely for themselves, without regard for God or other people.

In contrast to those self-serving actions, there are no laws against displaying the fruit of the Spirit. In fact, it is just the opposite. There is reason to encourage people to grow in their ability to show every one of these traits. Can you imagine the shift that would take place in our world if everyone lived with the fruit of the Spirit as their standard? If people actually lived out love, joy, peace and the others? All of them at once, not just specializing in one or two, but growing in all 9 (which are actually 9 sides of one fruit, remember). Wouldn't that be amazing?
Weekly Devotions |
Our world desperately needs more of the fruit of the Spirit. The first step towards that goal would be for each of us to become more aware of the Spirit in our own lives and to seek to listen better to the warnings and reminders He gives us. 

Maybe, though, there is another step we could be taking. Maybe we should also be seeking opportunities to encourage others when they display the traits we've been studying. After all, the more the fruit of the Spirit grows in the world, the better the world will be.

August 09, 2016

Thinking about Quilting and a Linky Party to Come

Now that my Just the Basics Mystery Quilt has been revealed, I can finally share pictures of it as I'm working on it!! Keeping a secret is really hard when I'm so used to sharing progress pictures as I go.

I have my quilt all basted, so now I'm planning out how I want to quilt it. I know I want to do dense custom quilting. The last quilt I quilted (which I can't fully share until October) was for our bed, so it was really big and I didn't want a lot of quilting because I wanted it to stay soft and drapey. That meant I quilted on a much larger scale than I usually do and all those empty spaces kept calling out to me. "Quilt me! Quilt me!" they said. I stayed strong and resisted though ;)
Larger scale fmq |

With this quilt, I plan on quilting every possible inch of it. Good think it's only a 48" square!

Yesterday I was too tired to do much of anything productive, but I did start playing around with possibilities for what to quilt in the various squares of the quilt. There are three different squares, two of which are on point.
Just the Basics Quilt Detail |

It's great to have these books to browse through for ideas!

Free motion quilting books |
I'm thinking there will be a couple of different types of flowers, something to soften up the lines of the piecing, so that was what I started with.
 Free motion quilting doodles |
 More free motion quilting doodles |

Still nothing definite, but it was fun to play around with ideas, especially when I felt like my brain was mush.

In other news, I've been thinking about how we quilters (and makers in general) can be very critical of our own work and tend to focus on the imperfections and the things we aren't good at yet. We also tend to ignore or take for granted the things we have learned to do well. I think it's time to change our focus!

Let's take a look back, really look at some of our earlier quilts and then at our more recent quilts. Let's celebrate all the things we've learned to do, or to do better, whether that's free motion quilting, cutting more accurately, trimming units so points match up better, foundation paper piecing, hand applique...There are so many skills we may have learned, so let's celebrate them all!

To help us celebrate together, I'll be hosting a linky party called Then...and Now here on my blog starting on Tuesday, August 16th (that's next Tuesday) and it will stay open until August 31st. Feel free to spread the word!
You're invited to write up a blog post sharing where your skills used to be and where they are now, then link it up with the party so we can all celebrate your progress. I can't wait to see what you all share :)

Now I'm off to plan some more quilting and write up my own Then...and Now post!

Linking up with Let's Bee Social and NTT.
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