Just Dropping In

I am still here. I have to report that I am listening to the Bible on YouTube lately. I am not as strong aurally as I am visually, so I’ve listened through 1 and 2 Kings a couple of times each. There are so many kings to keep track of, and I want to make sure I haven’t missed anything. Besides kings, there’s Elijah and Elisha, and Jezebel. Right? Extraordinary and amazing things took place. I know that my goal was to read through the Bible, not complete an in-depth study of each book. But the scriptures are so very rich and laden with layers of significance, I feel like I’m doing a “Bible Lite”. Instead of digging into the word and staying there awhile, I choose to let the quilt blocks propel me forward.

Actually, I don’t have a quilt block to show you today. The next block in the Bible Sampler Quilt comes from the book of Esther. I’ve got both the Chronicles and a couple of books of prophets to read before I arrive at the book of Esther. But I wanted to put up a post, so I’ll show you why I’m listening rather than reading. I hit “pause” on the iPad and snapped this shot:I need my eyes and hands free. I’m not keeping up with the garden stuff very well, so plugging in the headphones allows me to make headway.

Today I’m harvesting some nopales. It occurred to me that this might be of interest to those who don’t live in the semidesert. Do you eat nopalitos? I don’t care for them myself, but I use the greens for my daily green smoothies. Nopales are very good for your blood sugar and digestion. Best of all, it’s surprisingly easy to grow them and process them.

First, you wear thick gloves and cut them from the plant. There are always stickers that embed in your skin, but as a quilter, you’re no rookie when it comes to getting poked. I’ve stacked the cactus pads that I picked on the left. I scrape the spines off with the serrated edge of the knife, and trim around the edges. Those parts fall into the sink where a basket is waiting to take them back out to the yard for compost. The trimmed pads are placed in the sink, waiting to be rinsed and sliced. I let them sit there so the mucilaginous gel can drain awhile before I bag them up.

These bags are ready for the freezer. I stack single serving portions for future use in green smoothies.

While I’m doing this, the plants outside are growing more pads at a rate that will overwhelm me. I’ll be doing this over and over again until my freezer says, “Enough!” So I try to relax and enjoy the fact that I have put up plenty, which will get me through until next spring.

Well, that’s it for now. Next time, I may be posting from the kitchen sink again. There are lots of other things in the yard needing harvesting. I’ll try to listen through each book only once so that we can get on with the quilt blocks.

37. Whirlwind

The next block in the Bible Sampler Quilt is connected with the account of Elijah being taken up into heaven by a chariot of fire. The prophet Elijah had fought the good fight, he had earned his retirement. God had arranged for his successor to be Elisha.

Now the time has come to pass the baton, but Elisha doesn’t want Elijah to leave him. What shoes he would have to fill! God worked amazing deeds through Elijah: He revived a dead child, started and ended droughts, sent down fire from heaven, just to name a few. A hard act to follow for sure.

But right before his eyes, a chariot of fire, drawn by horses of fire appears. Elijah is separated from him, a whirlwind snatches him up, and off he goes to his eternity.

Elisha is alone, the very thing he was hoping to avoid. But it’s a good thing he saw Elijah go, because it fulfilled the final prophecy Elijah spoke: that Elisha would receive a double portion of the spirit Elijah had because he witnessed the event. So Elisha knows he’s really not alone; he’s got the spirit of God in double measure. It comes as no surprise that Elisha goes on to accomplish amazing miracles and deeds.

Whirlwind

I spoke about one of the pitfalls of being a “process” quilter in my previous post. I give you Exhibit A in today’s post. It was so fun to jump in and start without a firm vision of the end product in mind. However, If I had planned well, the colors in this block would be brighter, and there would be no solid fabric used. I need to save the solids because . . . (drumroll, please) . . .

I have decided to complete a Laurie Aaron Hird trilogy of quilts.

For me, it began with the Farmer’s Wife Sampler. I absolutely loved the look of the quilt on the book’s cover, and so I made my fabric choices accordingly. I used reproduction fabrics and kept to the warm tones. I created each block individually, with its own variety of highly contrasting colors. I didn’t think about how the blocks would all look when joined together on the quilt top. It’s lovely, but I realized that my eye preferred some rest, some negative space.

My Farmers Wife Sampler Quilt Top (not quilted yet)

So my next quilt, this Bible Sampler, gave me the opportunity to tone it down a bit. I limited myself to one color per block, with white as my neutral. I can’t wait to see how it looks when I join all the blocks together.

When Laurie Aaron Hird announced her next quilt sampler book on her blog, I immediately knew two things: number one: I would make this quilt, and number two: I would use solids. I don’t know yet if the neutral will be black or white, or some other color. I’ve got plenty of time yet to decide.

Three quilts: all different, yet all connected. Visual evidence of my growth as a quilter. I haven’t yet used only solids as a design choice. I’m already separating them out as I come upon them in my stash. I have plenty. I am so excited.

Now, back to the Bible. I have to respond to the parts I’ve read in between the quilt block passages before I move on. Second Samuel broke my heart. King David had a son, Absalom, that he loved. Their relationship was complex, and it ended badly. Absalom was rebellious, and he died before his father. Isn’t that a parent’s worst nightmare?

I remember when I first held my own firstborn in my arms. My love for her was so beyond what I ever could have imagined. At times, this profound love actually made me shudder. I realized (maybe it was the first time I thought about this) that she held the power to crush me within her tiny body. To realize that someone outside of myself can affect my deepest emotions made me uncomfortable. Then when I was expecting my second baby, I worried that I may not love her as fiercely as the first. Silly me. When she arrived, I learned the true nature of love. It multiplies to infinity and beyond, it has no end, it’s not a fixed substance that has to be sliced like a pizza pie. My third, and then my fourth child were loved as profoundly and as completely as the first.

When Absalom died in battle (leading a rebellion against his father David, by the way) King David was absolutely heartbroken. His advisors actually had to tell him to get a grip, because he had won the battle at the expense of many men who were also sons and husbands and fathers. But I can forgive David his grief. Even though his son didn’t turn out the way he had hoped, he couldn’t turn off his love for Absalom.

36. I Wish

What kind of quilter are you? What’s your favorite part? The plan, the process, or the product?

The planner first analyzes the pattern start to finish, cuts all the pieces at once, then arranges the project in assembly line fashion. There is no hurry and it could be put down and taken up over months or even years. She employs baggies and sticky notes and boxes and bins that keep the pieces regimented in perfect order.

The process quilter gets inspired by something she sees that happens to work with something that’s already in her stash. She jumps right in, cutting up those stash pieces to see how they look. After being pleasantly surprised, she proceeds to the next step, and the next, letting the quilt direct her decisions as it grows. She intentionally has no end in sight to her project. She enjoys lingering in the middle. When she does finally finish; she’s a bit melancholy that the serendipitous surprises have come to an end.

Finally, there is the completer. She begins with the end in mind. She goes to the store with pattern and maybe a coupon firm in hand, and combat shops for the project. She may have a deadline imposed on her, or a group challenge she’s joined. As she pushes pieces under the needle, her mind is pushing ahead to the next step, then the next. The vision of the finished project is the carrot dangling in her head. The thrill comes when she is done-de-done-done. Ta Da!

Of course we aren’t exclusively one type over the others, but I sure can identify with the second one. My favorite part of the process is the part I’m doing just then. Maybe the middle child is most comfortable in the middle of things. Hmmm, this is true of me in all aspects of life. Something to think about. But there are pitfalls that come with this method.

One: the overall vision evolves beyond the initial inspiration. Example: my inspiration for the Bible Sampler Quilt came from Jane Stickles. When pulling from my stash, I purposely chose muted, warm colors with a white neutral. But now as I photograph my blocks and share them with you, I’m finding them to be a bit too muted. It dawned on me that old quilts FADE. Jane’s quilt might very well have been bright and cheerful. I’m intentionally creating a new quilt to look OLD. That’s not good. But at this a point in the process there are no do-overs. I’ll just overcorrect with more color moving forward. Fingers crossed, it’ll balance out and brighten up. Ooh, that’s something to look forward to!

Two: You run out of fabric. What to do? You make do and change the vision. For example, I have three different colored sashings on my Farmers Wife Sampler, and two different cornerstone fabrics. I’m over it, and I know I still won’t plan ahead with yardage in my future projects. The prospect of taking desperate measures to execute a Plan B is too exciting.

I guess there are only two pitfalls, and I can live with them. But if I were to have a do over I would’ve chosen vibrant purples, the color of royalty, for this block. I was going for gold, but the Queen of Sheba deserves much more drama than what I’ve given her.

Queen’s Treasure

I’ve read through both books of Samuel and the first part of Kings. Those are some gnarly periods in history, particularly in the accounts involving women. I repeat from my last post, people are weird. But this account of the Queen of Sheba’s visit to King Solomon is a pleasant one. She had heard through the grapevine that he was exceptionally wise. So she saddles up her camels and brings him the usual: gold, spices, jewels, and so on. She then proceeds to test his reputation. At this point in history Solomon is listening to God, and therefore is blessed with wisdom, virtue and integrity. He’s very popular with his people. She is satisfied and an alliance is formed. But stay tuned, because as I’ve said, people are weird.

35. Heavy Lies the Crown

I’m back, and I’ve completed both books of Samuel. They are hard ones to process. There is a lot of good and bad behavior going on. There are consequential rewards and punishments happening. My finite mind struggles with them, because sometimes it seems as if good behavior is punished and bad is rewarded. Far be it from me (they say this phrase a lot in Samuel’s day) to think I can know the mind of God. Or the motives of men.

I don’t want to go into detail about these two books. They are filled with events that are definitely not p.c. Suffice it to say that people are weird.

Moving on, the quilt block is King David’s Crown

The passage in the Bible Sampler Quilt book recounts the battle of Rabbah. David took the king’s crown right off his head, and placed it on his own. “The weight of it was a talent of gold with the precious stones.” That sounds pretty heavy to me.

The title of my post actually refers to Shakespeare, when he wrote “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown” in Henry IV. I take this to mean that the worries and responsibilities that come with leadership can never be set aside, even in sleep.

But I think King David is able to do just that. For example, even when he had his faithful soldier Uriah killed in order to cover up his goings on with Bathsheba, (and the baby had to die, too) he declared that against God only had he sinned. Whaaat? And at the end of the second book of Samuel, David speaks his last words. He states that he was “blameless before God”, “kept the ways of the Lord”, was “rewarded for his righteousness” had “clean hands” and so on (22:21-25). Whaaat?

Again, far be it from me to find fault in the man that was after God’s own heart. For some reason David is favored by God even after he blows it big time. And David has the chutzpah to walk in the joy of that forgiveness as if it completely wiped away his sinful actions that caused so much pain and suffering to his innocent victims.

Yep, I’m preaching to the choir here, the choir being myself. I think the message embedded in these passages for me today is to realize where God’s favor lies. It isn’t gained by lifestyle, but by love. I am so quick to judge David by his lifestyle, especially when it comes to the women in his life. He is so not politically correct.

But God deals with the heart. He tells Saul that “To obey is better than sacrifice” when Saul keeps trying to force his way into God’s favor through action.

Unlike Saul, King David realizes that it is not what we do for God that earns us favor, it’s recognizing what God does for us.

That’s why King David can dance and sing and declare himself clean before God. He reminds me of the song, “Fields of Grace” by Big Daddy Weave:

https://youtu.be/kfv-1CNomcU

Bullfrogs and Butterflies

I’m departing from the Bible Sampler again to share wonder with you all:

These painted lady butterflies are moving west. They are buffeted by wind and cold. They fly apart from each other, beating the air with iridescent wings. So delicate, so strong. They have graced my home by choosing it for their flight path. They stop to refuel:

They’ve been passing overhead for three days now. Bless their hearts.

I’ve been gardening, and look who was buried in my flowerbed:

I think he was too cold to put up a fuss, but he was able to give me the stink eye:

His eyes were psychedelic. Bless his heart.

Did you listen during these videos? Did you hear the thunderous booms? They are the sounds of freedom, courtesy of the United States Marine Corps.

Bless their hearts.

P.S. Did anyone else think of the Barry McGuire children’s song?

Paradoxes and Juxtapositions Pt. 2

I’ve been letting the Bible Sampler quilt blocks set my pace through the books of the Bible at a very fast clip. I’m racing through rich, complex, and symbolic events. My mind has been blown more than a few times with new revelations I missed in previous readings. But the eye candy opportunity of sharing the new quilt block in each post drives me ever forward. I am having so much fun.

But I’m going to slam on the brakes and pause in First Samuel for today’s post. Something happened, and my brain added it to my mental list that includes Mary and Martha, and the prodigal son, and King David.

Here’s what happened. Well, first I need to back up a little. While reading through the books of Joshua, Judges, and Ruth, I was impressed that the children of Israel functioned pretty well without a strong central government. They did what seemed right in their own eyes. They appointed local judges and abided by their rulings when issues arose. But those glory days passed away with the first generation of Israelites. The younger generation clamored for a king so they would be like the other nations. The high priest, Samuel, tried to talk them out of it. What could be better than having God as your king? They would not be convinced, so he gave in to their whining and anointed Saul.

I don’t think Saul wanted this job. I say this because he was hiding when it was time for Samuel to present him as king to his people. Think about it, he didn’t step into an established position with a specific job description. There was no mentor. Even so, he got a few successful battles under his belt right away. The people were happy. But now the dreaded Philistines were marching towards him. Samuel told Saul to gather the people and wait there. Then Samuel would follow in seven days and tell him what to do next.

I don’t know what King Saul was feeling, but I would have been aware that the men were looking to me for leadership and action. I’d have felt the need to prove my kingly worth by appearing to be in complete control of the situation. Captains were probably pressing him as each day passed; which gave the Philistines the advantage of time. Time was of the essence here. King Saul’s answer wasn’t what they wanted to hear: “Wait”. As he said this out loud, he was probably screaming in his head, “Where IS that old Samuel and what’s taking him so long?”

After a few days the men got so restless that they began to scatter. On the seventh day, Saul said, “Forget this”, he grabbed the sacrifice and made a burnt offering to God before heading out to confront the Philistines. Apparently this was the wrong thing to do.

WHAT? Cut the guy some slack! Aren’t we going to give Saul credit for making the effort to acknowledge God? He was only trying to do good.

But no. Who should finally arrive as the offering is cooling on the altar? Yep, Samuel, and he is not pleased. He tells Saul that he has acted foolishly. And furthermore, because he didn’t follow the command of the Lord, the Lord will NEVER establish his kingdom over Israel. Wow. Talk about your consequences. Geez.

I would have done the exact same thing. In fact, I’ve gotta hand it to Saul for waiting it out all seven days. I would have been nearly crazed by day three. And no cell phone signal meant I couldn’t call to learn what the hold up was with Samuel. His chariot could be stuck in a ditch, or worse, right? If he could get a message to me, I bet he’d say: “Go on and start without me. Please go ahead with the burnt offering, and the Lord be with you”. Right?

And Mary and Martha? If Mary would’ve just cared a little bit and helped out in the kitchen, Martha could’ve relaxed and enjoyed Jesus’ visit too. And the prodigal son? I’d have joined big brother in resenting all the fuss and nonsense over that slacker. And David? How dare he say, “Against thee, and thee alone have I sinned” when he actually left noble men dead in his selfish wake. Don’t they get it?

Here’s the thing.

I have an authority problem. My reaction to these seemingly-to-me unjust consequences show my lack of trust and lack of patience. The love chapter in First Corinthians begins with “Love is patient”. Patience demonstrates both love and trust: Trust in God’s authority that He will do all things in His time. Saul stepped away from his faith and took matters into his own hands. He meant well, but his action revealed his true soul. He hadn’t given over all of himself to God. Neither did Martha, or David, or the prodigal’s brother. Like Mary, the sister of Martha, they could have received “the better part” that God had planned for them if they had just trusted in His timing and His provision.

It doesn’t help that I live in a “Get ‘er done” society that values busy-ness and speed. It doesn’t help me practice patience. But I’m glad I took the time to ruminate on 1 Samuel 13.

No quilt block today, but here’s some eye candy for you. Meet my dogs, Heidi and Emma: This is what relaxing looks like.

34. Paradoxes and Juxtapositions

You may have noticed that I’ve slowed down posting my posts. This is so that my Bible reading can catch up to the quilt blocks. I’ve raced through Joshua, Judges, and Ruth in order to reach the book of Samuel and this next block:

David and Goliath Quilt Block

Please don’t look too closely. I’ve said more than once that Y-seams aren’t my favorite. And besides, it’ll quilt out.

I’m in that region of the Bible that involves a lot of violence. As I’m plowing through the pages, the Israelites are plundering through the promised land. I’m reading accounts of bloody massacres, horrific tortures, and unspeakable abuses happening one after the other. I feel a bit uncomfortable trying to discuss this with you and then tying in the pleasant part, the quilting. The two are too juxtaposed.

God told Joshua that the promised land had to be purged of all Canaanites. In my last post, I talked about how Joshua did his part and conquered the kingdoms. He then portioned out the promised land among the twelve tribes. It was now up to them to go to their new homelands and finish the job. Some did, but more didn’t. They allowed the Canaanites to stay, and over time, infect them with their idolatries and sins.

God had required 100%, and the Israelites gave him maybe 85%. That’s a solid B; and any parent would be happy to see this grade on little junior’s report card. But God’s law doesn’t work that way. The Israelites were severely punished and by the time I got through the book of Ruth they had been enslaved by their enemies more than once. These enemies, by the way, could have been destroyed back when God was doing the heavy lifting for His children in battle. But no, His children grew lazy and wishy washy when it came to working out the plan. They had settled for a “B” when God required an A+.

It was the Philistines who were battling the tribe of Judah, and winning, when David stepped up to take on Goliath in chapter 17. Young David had the same clarity of mind that Joshua and Moses shared. He told Goliath that he came in the name of the Lord, and it was the Lord who would deliver Goliath into his hand. You know how it turns out for Goliath. It seems as if the Israelites are heading towards being back on track.

The paradox of the loving God I serve and the punishing God of these Old Testament books is not lost on me. Suffice it to say that this is where I’m relieved to be a confessional Christian. I don’t need to explain Him, or understand it all myself. What I do understand is God has made the way for us to achieve our A+ through His son, as long as we allow him 100% access. I’m glad I’m living in the age of and the state of grace. Like David, I can trust that God fights, and wins, the battle for us.

It’ll all quilt out.