Friendly Throw Quilt

When my good friend moved into a new place, I wanted to make her a throw quilt in happy colors. 

This quilt is made from a fun, easy pattern from Allison at Cluck, Cluck Sew called "To the Point."  

Often when I make a top, I dither about what kind of finish to give it. Allison made it easy this time by giving some finish options on her blog which I ended up following. So first I outlined the white triangles with straight lines and then I filled in the white triangles with a tight meander. There's no quilting on the colored triangles, which makes them pop out. Here's what it looks like after washing and crinkling up.

Do you think it still counts as a housewarming gift if it was delivered eight months after she moved in?

A Real Woman's Guide to Devotions, Part 2: But I'm BUSY!

Purdue bell tower

Life often seems to pass by in a swift blur. At the end of a week I often can barely remember what I did a few days before. There are kids to be fed, clothed, taught, loved. Lessons and jobs to be driven to. A household and finances to manage. Chores to be kept up with. A husband's business books to be tended. Church responsibilities. People to have over. Friends to walk, pray, and laugh with. Sometimes there are even quilts to be sewn and books to be read. Life is full, and I love it that way!

When life is very busy, it can be hard to find time for prayer and Bible reading. But busy lives should not be prayerless lives. Busy women especially need time with God to settle anxious hearts, to seek His direction for using our limited time, and to plead for His favor so that our work will not be in vain. Those very same people and responsibilities that keep us so busy should drive us to our knees as we call upon the only One who can equip us for each day's tasks!

Great, you might be thinking. Another guilt trip about needing to spend more time in prayer and Bible study. 

No! Instead I want to encourage you to think REAL instead of IDEAL. Don't put off prayer and reading the Bible because you don't have a set apart hour. Instead of waiting for the perfectly quiet moment, grab what you can. Work with the real as you at the same time take steps to move closer to your ideal.

Here are some examples of real vs. ideal:

In an ideal world, I would do all my Bible reading from my print Bible. Over time, reading consistently from one physical Bible allows you to locate passages very quickly.  (It's right here!) This is so helpful! However, my reality is that my old eyes can't focus on my print Bible early in the morning. So I use a Kindle. Not as nice as a paper Bible, but I can make it happen.

Maybe you find reading the Bible on your phone works best. Probably not ideal, but if you limit or ignore email and text notifications, this can be a good option.

Ideal might be reading four chapters a day in a systematic through-the Bible-in-a-year plan. Some years that is what I do. Real might mean you only have time for one chapter. It only takes about five minutes to read an average chapter in the Bible. If you have only five minutes - use it! Read that chapter! And then mull it over as you go on to fold laundry or prepare breakfast.

In an ideal world, prayer and Bible reading would happen together in a lovely, quiet hour. In my real world, I often separate the two into two separate time slots during the day.

In an ideal world, personal devotions take place very early in the morning. In a real world, maybe the best time for you is when your children are napping. (I have some ideas for making time in the morning that I'll share later.)

Martin Luther wrote a great letter to his barber called "A Simple Way to Pray." In it he talks about how to pray through the Lord's Prayer, the 10 Commandments, and the Creed. There are some great nuggets on how to make prayer happen in a busy life as well. Here's an excerpt:

It is a good thing to let prayer be the first business of the morning and the last at night. Guard yourself carefully against those false, deluding ideas which tell you, "Wait a little while. I will pray in an hour; first I must attend to this or that." Such thoughts get you away from prayer into other affairs which so hold your attention and involve you that nothing comes of prayer for that day.
It may well be that you have some tasks which are as good or better than prayer, especially in an emergency. There is a saying ascribed to St. Jerome that everything a believer does is prayer and a proverb, "He who works faithfully prays twice." This can be said because a believer fears and honors God in his work and remembers the commandment not to wrong anyone, or to try to steal, defraud, or cheat. Such thoughts and such faith undoubtedly transform his work into prayer and a sacrifice of praise... 
Yet we must be careful not to break the habit of true prayer and imagine other works to be necessary which, after all, are nothing of the kind. Thus at the end we become lax and lazy, cool and listless toward prayer. The devil who besets us is not lazy or careless, and our flesh is too ready and eager to sin and is disinclined to the spirit of prayer.

Life is busy! If you have little children, you may dream of the day they will be older. Then you'll have time for devotions! But guess what? Life is always busy! So instead of waiting for the perfect situation to have the perfect devotions, begin now with what you are able to do. Spend time each day reading and thinking about God's word and talking with Him about what you have read and about your concerns. Even in the busiest of times, your walk with God can be a growing one!

Next time I'll give some ideas for how to cut through distractions.

A Real Woman's Guide to Personal Devotions - Part 1

You know that old saying about the perfect being the enemy of the good? Well, I think that applies to our devotional lives every bit as much as it does in other areas. We have an ideal image in our mind of just what it should look like to have a vibrant devotional life, but we live in a real world, not that ideal one.

Try Googling "woman reading Bible." You'll come up with images of relaxed women leisurely enjoying time in the Word. Much of the time she's sitting somewhere outside, sometimes with the ocean or a stream nearby. Sometimes she has a cup of tea or coffee in her hands. She's alone, and dirty laundry or dishes are nowhere in sight. It's peaceful. Lovely. Just not terribly realistic.

Unfortunately, sometimes we allow unrealistic expectations to keep us from spending time with God. If I can't rise before dawn and spend an hour in quality bible study followed by another hour of intercessory prayer, why bother?

So even though this perfect woman exists in Christian magazines and blog-land, she doesn't live at my house. And probably not yours either.

Because I'm an ordinary woman. One who is busy. Distracted. Tired, oh so tired. And not infrequently stressed.

But these things make it even more important for me to spend time each day with the Lord, not less. So how can I make it happen?

Over time I've tried a whole bunch of ways of building prayer and Bible reading into my life. Many of these things have worked, at least for a particular season. Other strategies have failed. Over the course of several posts, I'm going to tell you what I have found helpful and what has been unhelpful. Because everyone is different, I'll try to give you a number of ideas which you can sort through. I'm going to talk about how to have a growing relationship with the Lord even in the midst of a crazy busy life filled with all the messiness that real living brings. My hope is that we can each give up our unrealistic expectations but instead  discover patterns which can lead us to a more vital devotional life!

A note on pictures: Since I've just returned from my fourth trip to Purdue in the past couple of weeks, I'll be illustrating these posts with pictures from the lovely (yes - really!) Purdue campus. 

Under Construction: Annie's Sunshine Quilt

A PVC lap frame (white parts) make handwork easy

Back in January Kara and I pieced this quilt for Anneliese Sunshine. Now all that's left are the finishing touches. First, I free motion quilted spirals in the sashing and around the sunshines. I'm doing a touch of big stitch hand work in the sunshines, and then it'll be ready for Annie's bed!

Big stitch quilting

Crazy Kids

My kids have always liked playing games. But they often riff on the conventional rules and come up with their own. (This sometimes makes for confusion when playing with others not in on our house rules.) 

For example, last night they set up a tournament with five games going on simultaneously. I'm not exactly sure how it worked, but they seemed to have a great time doing it. When one game finished, they continued on with the others until all were finished. I think one had game was out of the play by the time I took this picture.

Outdoor games also often bear little resemblance to similarly named games others might know. This one is a version of "Golf," long a family favorite, played with tennis rackets and baseball bats instead of golf clubs. Oh, and a soccer ball instead of a golf ball. Yeah. The resemblance to its namesake is pretty minimal. I've never seen this particular hazard on the course before, but they never play the same way twice.

Hard to believe that two of these kids are in college and a third will start in a few months!

Picnic Quilt

It's Memorial Day weekend, which means it's picnic time, so I thought I'd show you this picnic quilt I made from old jeans and cords.

I don't normally like sewing with denim, but this quilt was fun! Plus, I didn't buy a single thing, using an old flannel sheet for the batting and some fabric I'd been given years ago for the backing. Woohoo! Using up odds and ends makes me so happy!

This quilt is based on 10" blocks, though a couple of blocks are doubled to be 20" long. Otherwise, the squares are either 10" squares or rectangles sewn to make a 10" block. Here's a pattern which gives more detailed instructions.

Denim is tough stuff, so here are a few tips to minimize frustration. For cutting blocks, use a rotary cutter. Unless you have large pants or a maybe a dress or shirt to work with, usually you can't get 10" from one side of a pair of pants. But that's OK, because as long as the seams are pretty straight, you can include a jean seam in your block. This makes things more interesting, too. I didn't include any pockets, though my daughters do when they make denim quilts.

Because denim frays easily, I used 1/2" seam allowances. Then I pressed the seams open which made for less bulk and eased things up when it came time to machine quilt the whole thing.

Using a fresh denim (or other large) needle will make sewing this heavy fabric easier.

You can see the tan and gray corduroy pieces more easily in this picture.
The white designs on some pieces are from a painted pair of jeans.

Some people forgo the batting layer altogether on picnic quilts. The flannel sheet I used, added to the heft from the denim top and bottom, makes for a really heavy quilt! But it feels pretty comfy, so I guess we can live with the weight.

I used an easy loop-de-loop free motion quilting pattern. I'm still digging this whole FMQ thing! You can see the loopy pattern on the dark denim portion of the back.

Making a denim quilt is not difficult. When jeans become too worn for use, cut off the top portion of the pants, and then cut down along the inside seam. Leave the outer seam intact. Now you should have a nice piece of fabric to work with. Keep saving, and before long, you'll have enough pieces (and variety) to make a quilt!

Blessed be God!

Isn't it astounding that God chooses to hear our prayers? One of the many mysteries about prayer to me is that God desires to hear from us. That the infinite, perfect, holy God wants fellowship with me, with all my sinful thoughts, actions, and faithlessness is beyond understanding! But throughout Scripture, we read exhortations to pray. He gives us parables telling us pray and not give up. And then God gives us beautiful promises telling us that He does indeed hear our prayers. This morning I read this from Charles Spurgeon's Morning and Evening devotional, and I wanted to share it here in hope that you may find it as encouraging as I did.

"Blessed be God, which hath not turned away my prayer."
Psalm 66:20

In looking back upon the character of our prayers, if we do it honestly, we shall be filled with wonder that God has ever answered them. There may be some who think their prayers worthy of acceptance-as the Pharisee did; but the true Christian, in a more enlightened retrospect, weeps over his prayers, and if he could retrace his steps he would desire to pray more earnestly. Remember, Christian, how cold thy prayers have been. When in thy closet thou shouldst have wrestled as Jacob did; but instead thereof, thy petitions have been faint and few-far removed from that humble, believing, persevering faith, which cries, "I will not let thee go except thou bless me." Yet, wonderful to say, God has heard these cold prayers of thine, and not only heard, but answered them. Reflect also, how infrequent have been thy prayers, unless thou hast been in trouble, and then thou hast gone often to the mercy-seat: but when deliverance has come, where has been thy constant supplication? Yet, notwithstanding thou hast ceased to pray as once thou didst, God has not ceased to bless. When thou hast neglected the mercy-seat, God has not deserted it, but the bright light of the Shekinah has always been visible between the wings of the cherubim. Oh! it is marvellous that the Lord should regard those intermittent spasms of importunity which come and go with our necessities. What a God is he thus to hear the prayers of those who come to him when they have pressing wants, but neglect him when they have received a mercy; who approach him when they are forced to come, but who almost forget to address him when mercies are plentiful and sorrows are few. Let his gracious kindness in hearing such prayers touch our hearts, so that we may henceforth be found "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit."