48. Nests

Here’s the next block in the Bible Sampler Quilt, “Bird’s Nest“.

I’m writing this post from my favorite place in my “nest”, my front patio. King David is writing this psalm from exile – probably in a cave somewhere – while his awful son Absalom enjoys the stolen fruits of David’s empire, Jerusalem.

But David is upbeat and even sings words of praise in this passage. You’ve got to hand it to him there. I tend to hold a bit of a grudge against David, which I should not be doing. But what about those major slip ups? (i.e. Bathsheba, the baby son, Uriah, Michal, etc.)

I am intrigued by nests. I find them all over our yard.

Some are cleverly woven, which amazes me. I couldn’t do that with a beak.

Some look like they’re sloppily assembled, but they get the job done.

Sometimes I’m surprised by the choice of location when it’s so close to where I regularly walk or sit. A hummingbird built her spiderweb nest right in this patio, and I saw the little family progress at eye level. It felt nice to know that the mamma bird trusted me.

If I were to have fun interpreting this passage of scripture, I’d say that David is yearning for his home in this psalm. He says that “Even the swallow found a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even Your altars, oh Lord of hosts, my King and my God. How blessed are those who dwell in Your house!”

So the birds could make their nests near the courts of the Lord, yet King David had to stay in exile if he knew what was good for him. He longed to be back home, and back in the temple.

Now I could take this opportunity to encourage you, dear reader, to stay close to God’s “court”: your church, to attend often, stay in fellowship, and don’t take the freedom of worship we enjoy for granted, etc. But I won’t, even though I believe these things are good to do. David reminds me that God is with me, not only in His holy temple, but outside of it as well. He is even with me in the deepest place of self-exile.

This passage finishes up with David proclaiming from his distant cave, “Oh Lord of Hosts, how blessed is the man who trusts in You!”

47. Politics and Ravelry – What?

I know, I said this blog was a politics-free zone, but I wanted to add my voice to the Ravelry conversation. After this, I’ll try my best to stay out of politics.

I realize it’s old news now, but like so many others, I deleted my account. Before I was a quilter, I was a knitter, so much so that I had to have a trigger thumb release surgery. The trigger thumb was caused by the repetitive nature of the very act of knitting and crocheting. So I switched up to quilting, which is more hand-friendly. It’s all good.

Anyways, I had years of archived projects in my Ravelry account since 2007, complete with darling photos. It was my online scrapbook that spanned many life events and showed the layettes, blankets, and holiday hats, scarves, socks and sweaters I made as gifts. I also had a pattern for sale, and patterns filed that I had purchased from others. But I shut it down. Why?

Because Ravelry’s “inclusion” policy excluded me. As a follower of Jesus Christ, I’m included in the great commission, which says in part, “Go, teaching them to obey the commandments I have given to you”.

What, exactly, are those commandments? Jesus said the greatest commandment was to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.

Who is my neighbor? The great commission means everybody. “Everybody” means even the people who don’t agree with me politically. Or morally. People who are on the spectrum of life, from pre-birth to death. People who want to hate me simply because of my set of beliefs, my citizenship, my orientation. I am called to love them as much as I love myself.

I once heard a great quote. “Jesus meets us right where we are, but He loves us too much to let us stay there”. How many times did He heal someone, only to say, “Go, and sin no more”. He told his disciples, (and therefore me), that they were to be fishers of men. It’s His job to clean the fish, He only asks me to work the net with him. I do so gladly because being a follower of the Creator of the Universe is the only way I could live this life. I want everyone to live in this peace and joy. I’ve got a timid heart by nature, and it’s in my weakness that He makes me strong.

So, please don’t shoot the messenger, but I am commanded to confess the truth of God’s word as it is written, straight up, no holds barred. It’s not my job to try and make God’s words user-friendly for today’s culture, or to soften its sharp edges in order to fit in. Instead, I am to proclaim the Gospel, even to Ravelry, which is the good news of deliverance from sin and death through Jesus, freely available to anyone and everyone. That’s tolerance and inclusion. In fact, the only one who can actually pull off absolute inclusion is the Creator of the Universe. He will take care of the rest. I could’ve kept my profile open on Ravelry, but I was no longer tolerated there, and was asked to leave.

Okay, I’m done, thank you. Now, back to the Bible Sampler quilt and the next block:

Sunset Star

What can I say? Curves. Yeah, curves are right up there with “appliqué” in my estimation. As in, I won’t be going there ever. But I did, and I got through it. I assure you that the block looks better in real life. Photos find all the flaws, wouldn’t you agree?

46. Is It Just Me?

The next block in the Bible Sampler quilt:

Forest Paths quilt block

Is it just me, or is the world really going off the deep end? I picked up my iPad just now to start writing, and this clickbait flashed on my screen: Apple News: “Why wealthy parents are giving up custody of their kids” I don’t even want to know.

The news networks present a world in turmoil. I hereby declare this blog a politics-free zone, so that lid stays on that can of worms. But social media aside, just being alive has its calamities. I’ve had my own personal experience with cancer, and with a school shooting. My beloved, faithful dog was bitten by a rattlesnake just last week. Emma made a full recovery, I’m happy to say. Life is messy.

The simple act of reading the Bible has had a surprisingly calming effect on me. Before taking this “challenge” on, my thoughts were more preoccupied with the craziness I saw happening and reading about in the news. I was disturbed by others’ poor decision-making, and troubled by the suffering that followed. I can’t explain how reading the Bible balances me out, it just does. Especially the book of Psalms.

David was a man after God’s own heart, yet when we read his writings, it’s obvious that he wasn’t “rejoicing in the Lord always”. Instead, he was all over the map emotionally. His verses swing from highs to lows, then back again. What a relief. I don’t need to get myself pumped up in order to enjoy a relationship with our Creator. God made us in His image, with a full range of emotions after all. He purposely included fear, anger, and sadness, along with happiness, in His creation. He can handle any mood we bring. Maybe David was the apple of God’s eye because of this authenticity.

The quilt block goes with this phrase, “. . .For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills”. The world and its fullness are His. God needs nothing from us in order to keep His plans moving forward. He wants us to join Him in His plans, so that we can benefit. So I’m not advocating cultural apathy. I engage in the culture wars where I am able. It’s like the old Shake and Bake commercials. God is in charge of the outcome, and He lets me take some credit just like that proud kid who says, “and I helped!”

45. But What Do I Know?

I am reading (and singing) my way through Psalms and the Bible Sampler quilt blocks.

Guide Post Block

Can you guess how many pieces make up this block? 61. Since I have reached, and passed, that particularly birthday, I looked long and hard at this block when I finished it. So that’s my life, I thought, as represented in blue and white years. It sure doesn’t look like much compared to what it felt like to live it. So, so, so much living. From this vantage point in my life, I can say I’ve picked up a thing or two along the way.

More than once I have proposed starting a podcast to my husband. I do this while we go through our typical morning ritual of sipping our coffee on the patio. We usually discuss the current state of things. We solve the problems in our town, our country, our world. Sometimes I wish I was recording those conversations, not only because of their brilliance and clarity, but because of the cleverness of our banter. I would call our podcast, “But What Do I Know?”

It’s a passive aggressive title, yes. It’s said with a bit of grudge inflected in the voice, but stays way clear of sounding smug. We know that we really don’t know much. But looking at what’s happening in our world today, and seeing what people are falling for, we know a lot more than we think. Our knowledge holds wisdom borne of years of experience. But who wants to listen?

Then I return to being “me” and the idea fizzles. I’m sandwiched between two very different generations. The generation that formed my formative years is nearly unrecognizable to the generation coming into its own today. The generation that shaped “me”, as in, my perception of my place in the universe, had these differences:

Credentials – there were institutions to conquer and hoops to jump in order to hold position in society. Educators, journalists, publishers, broadcasters, doctors, clergy – these all had qualifiers in place in order for candidates to practice those vocations. Plumbers, carpenters, and other makers had their apprenticeships and guilds.

Authority – people were accustomed to looking for the qualifying credentials of the aforementioned practictioners and their vocations. If they passed the standardized scrutiny, then they were recognized and respected as experts in their fields.

Self-esteem – What was that? You obeyed your parents and showed appreciation for your lot in life. Any esteem you had was earned by measurable achievement. If you started thinking too highly of yourself, your parents made sure to knock you down a peg or two; it was part of their job description. They thought they were doing us all a favor.

The generation coming into its own today is very different. Thanks to the internet, anyone can be an “expert” and pontificate freely, regardless of their credentials. Their peers don’t care, the old rules and requirements are obsolete. My friend’s “kids” (adults, actually), have self published books, and they’ve created their own talk shows on twitch. I am mystified at the confidence this new generation exudes. You can hear it in their podcasts and on their YouTube shows. I’m glad they have the guts to produce these shows, because I enjoy listening to them. It is not lost on me that these new rules of engagement apply to me as well. I could take the opportunity to join in the fun. I think my husband and I would really like to add to the conversations, but what do we know?

44. Discoveries

The next block in the Bible Sampler quilt accompanies probably the most recognized passage of scripture, the 23rd Psalm.

Shepherd’s Crossing

I’m not going to reflect on this Bible passage. It is so rich and deep. Entire books have been written on this passage. I’m so glad I can say with assurance these words that David wrote: “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”

My dear friend posted this on the same day I was posting this. Great timing! We love Psalm 23 because it reminds us that God understands us and our needs better than we know ourselves.

In other news: The garden has reached the tipping point where I can’t keep up with the bounty. Besides the garden, we have fruit trees dropping ripe deliciousness on the ground. Even though we require all visitors to take a bag of fruit if they want to leave our home, it’s not enough. I don’t want to see anything go to waste. Those trees and their keepers worked so hard to make that fruit.

But I happened upon a little solution this morning for one plant I’m growing. This old girl learned a new trick.

I’ve got a stevia plant.

I pinch a few leaves for my morning green smoothies. I’ll also put leaves in my iced tea and chew on them as I drink. Yesterday I picked too many because the plant is mushrooming, and decided to throw the leaves into a cup of water for the next day, today. Well to my surprise, the water is SWEET! So now I know how to sweeten my iced tea, hot tea, kombucha, etc. I can also freeze the sweet water in ice cube trays.

Best of all, I’ll keep up with the growth and there’ll be no waste.

There’s another similarity between gardeners and quilters: Inch by Inch

We glean. I thought about this while I was gathering up grapefruit groundfall. We don’t throw the whole fruit away if there’s a little blemish or soft spot, we cut that part off and use the rest. Same goes with my oranges and limes that are falling off the trees these days.

I’ve been doing a lot of fabric as well as fruit cutting lately. I wanted to play with the fabrics waiting patiently in their dark tubs. So I’ve been sorting scraps into project piles, cutting out the faded and bad parts and slicing the rest into needed sizes. I don’t know why, but it’s very satisfying to give the scraps a useful purpose, and keep waste to a minimum. Gleaning.

43. Acts of God

Thunder Clouds block

This block was a fun one, despite having 44 pieces in all. It goes with Psalm 18 in the Bible Sampler Quilt, which has another of my favorite passages: “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation”.

I love how David is so comfortable and confident in his relationship with God. He knows he’s on His good side, and understands the awesomeness of God’s “bad side”. David describes God coming to his rescue: “Then the earth reeled and rocked; the foundations also of the mountains trembled and quaked because he was angry. Smoke went up from his nostrils, and devouring fire from his mouth, glowing coals flamed forth from him. He bowed the heavens . . . Thick clouds dark with water. Out of the brightness before him hailstones and coals of fire broke through his clouds. The LORD also thundered in the heavens, and the Most High uttered his voice, hailstones and coals of fire.”

You wouldn’t want to be on God’s bad side. This passage reminds me of what insurance companies refer to as “Acts of God”.

I snapped these photos this past Saturday. Check out what God did out my front door which faces east towards the mountains. And it wasn’t even raining:

At the same time, He was doing this out my back door to the west:

I didn’t edit these photos at all. I just pointed the iPad and clicked over the course of about fifteen minutes. The sky kept changing right before my eyes. These photos don’t do the grandeur sweeping across the heavens justice. I thought of the saying:

“Share the gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words.” God revealed his beautiful majesty without a single word right up there in the sky. You can see how lots of people say they see God in nature. They say that they worship God through nature. Some go too far and decide that nature is their God. But I think they miss out when their faith ends there.

I’m biased, but words, as well as deeds, are important too.

So how do we share the gospel? God directs us to bear witness to the truth. His word is truth.

What is the gospel? It’s the good news that the Lord is our strength and our rock and our deliverer. We can escape the bad side because he made a way out through His son, Jesus Christ.

42. And a Finish

Apple Leaf Block

This passage of scripture has David making a bold request. Surrounded by deadly enemies and the wicked who would do him violence, he asks God to keep him as the apple of His eye and to hide him in the shadow of His wings. Lovely imagery, and powerful truth: The passage begins with “I call upon you – for you will answer me, Oh God; incline your ear to me; hear my words.”

How very comforting to visualize a caring Father bending down to listen to His beloved child. That’s the God we worship: One who can and wants to hide us in the shadows, the clefts of rocks, the palms of His hands. I am loving the book of Psalms.

In other news, I had a personal mini sew-in yesterday. It was a rare opportunity, as I had the house entirely to myself for a large part of the day. All those new projects I planned, pulled, cut and organized had some assembly happen:

Floribunda stacks are blooming

Economy blocks appeared in between as leaders and enders.

As the day wore on, I itched to see something besides stacks of pieces in progress. As much as I claim to be a process quilter, I needed the satisfaction of a finish.

So I picked up my basket of leftover Good Fortune pieces and made this:

It’s not technically complete; I’m going to make another simple border that’ll make it easy to sew into a pillow. But for today, throwing this together satisfied the itch. In addition, it provided evidence that the “Startitis” virus is past me now. I no longer feel compelled to launch new quilt projects. I do foresee a spell of “Finishupitis” on my horizon. But for now, I’m enjoying the comfortable middles of several projects, which require neither a start nor a finish and the stress-inducing decisions that accompany them.