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.

41. By Fits and Starts

Star Pattern Quilt Block

It is a relief to be past the book of Job and into the Book of Psalms. Its familiarity is a comfort and a reprieve. So many of the passages have been used in contemporary worship songs, including this one. There was also poetry in Job, but it evoked a wholly different reaction from me than David’s beautiful verses. Job wrestled and suffered and asked the unanswerable questions. David wrestled too, but reminded himself to trust and rejoice in our loving God.

In other news: Life has its seasons. Since retirement, my husband and I have been decluttering the homestead, both inside and out. He likes to purge in a big way, and therefore see huge progress at the end of the day. Me? That’s making too many decisions at once. I dislike making decisions about my “things”. My philosophy is: The clutter trickled in to our lives bag by bag; so that’s how it’s leaving, I can cheerfully handle a trickle. I’ve been very good at giving away, throwing away, and donating away bag after bag until the house and yard are clear and clutter-free. The one exception is the sewing room.

But the ball has been set in motion, and I’m using the momentum. I acquired my fabric scraps bit by bit. I liked the idea that resourceful women used up old scraps and clothing to piece together their pioneer quilts. I know there were prosperous eras in history as well when quilters chose from an abundance of resources. But it’s more fun for me to create something out of seemingly nothing than to pre-plan and purchase all the fabric at once.

But that means I have created a state of fabric randomness that languishes in ugly plastic bins. Since I’ve turned the cleaning momentum on to my sewing room, I’ve been pulling scraps from those bins, joined them with a pattern, and put them into new bins. Wait, that’s still progress, because the new bins are specific projects with enough fabric to complete them. I even found big pieces for the backs, which I hung on hangers in the closet. Even though I now have multiple UFO’s, because I did start a little bit on each one, I feel much more sorted and organized. And those random pieces are as good as gone because they have a destiny.

Here’s what I pulled together:

First up: Floribunda

The Jacob’s Ladder blocks become optically interesting with Bonnie Hunter’s free pattern:

https://quiltville.com/pdf/floribundapdf.pdf

Inspiration:

Next up: Castle Wall

This has been a bucket list item for years. I’ve been having fun bagging up the pieces for each block. My inspiration was this:

But I bought this to make it happen:

Last up, for today: Economy

I was ready to donate a bag full of soft, almost flannel plaids and stripes. Then I saw this on Lisa Bongean’s website:

What a great Leader and Ender!

I’m happily slicing up the squares needed, going from smallest scraps to largest so they disappear quicker. The wastebasket is filling up with shreds too, which feels very gratifying.

The best part is, I don’t have to try to remember what I was thinking anymore. I’ve been juggling photos and patterns in my brain to consider later. Now the decisions have been made. All that’s left is to take a big cleansing breath, and breathe into the peaceful empty space that has been created. And sew!

40. Here We Go – the Book of Job

I’ve completed the historical section of the Old Testament, and have begun the “books of wisdom” which include Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes.

Job’s Troubles quilt block

Unlike its name, this block gave me no trouble at all. No Y seams, no curves. I’m not tearing out the paper on the blocks until I’m ready to sash them, as you can plainly see.

We all know the story of Job. I don’t personally know anyone who LIKES this book of the Bible. No one likes it when bad things happen to good people. God treats Job so incredibly unfairly. The story portrays God in a way that makes me uncomfortable. Even the so-called “happy ending” leaves me unsatisfied. What purpose does this story serve; earning it a place in the Holy Bible?

It serves a great purpose, actually. I don’t remember which Little House on the Prairie book it is in; but there’s a situation where Laura is complaining to her mother about an injustice she is experiencing. Ma responds with a sharp rebuke that goes something like this: “Laura, the sooner you learn that life isn’t fair, the better off you’ll be”. I remember feeling as if I’d been stung when I first read this as a child. Poor little Laura was hurting and seeking comfort, but Ma tersely dished out the hard truth instead.

The book of Job is telling us the same thing.

I like to think that I have some measure of control over my life. There’s a feeling of safety when finding the reasons for things, causes for effects, explanations for phenomena. We want answers, right?

The story of Job gives us none of those. Instead, it show us that the world is a wild and dangerous place where random things happen. And that’s the purpose of the book. It reminds us that we serve an omnipotent God. He IS the perfect, righteous judge and loving father, even when it seems otherwise. I cannot begin to think that I can explain His ways. His infinite wisdom and perfect judgment cannot be understood by my finite mind. And if I think that people should get what they deserve, I better think twice.

There are glimmers of gospel in Job. Just when you feel the lousiest, Job 33:24 states: “Then he is gracious unto him, and saith, Deliver him from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom.”

That hit me hard. I was reading along, empathizing with poor Job, trying to make sense of the heavenly transactions between good and evil. But the God of Job, who caused fear and frustration, was the very same God who would deliver His own beloved Son to be judged on our behalf. God didn’t find the ransom, either. He provided it at great personal cost. He gave His only son because of His love for us. Wow. Jesus suffered and lost so much more than fictional Job in His Father’s transaction with death.

In a nutshell: It’s not my job to figure out Job. (Couldn’t resist the pun.)

So then, what is my job?

Answer: “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”

(Westminster Catechism)

I like that. It’s simple, clean, and leaves the heavy lifting up to God.

39. Woman Power, Part Two

The Book of Esther finds the Jewish nation under a new Persian ruler. The previous kings have been tolerant, even kind, to the exiled Jews. This new one, Ahasuerus, seems to be a piece of work. But let’s discuss the women involved.

There are two that we can compare and contrast. The first is Queen Vashti, who was described as a great beauty. After seven continuous days of feasting; the king is feeling merry and on a whim, decides he wants to show her off to his friends and princes. He has his minions summon her to the court. For whatever reason, Vashti refuses to comply with his command. Maybe she was tired after seven days of organizing all that feasting for the king. He appears to be quite the party animal. Maybe she was tired of feeding into his boorish behavior. Whatever the reason, she tried to exert some power by refusing him, and was the loser. Vashti was put out of the presence of the king and her property was taken from her.

This harsh punishment sure doesn’t seem to fit the crime. But the king’s advisors told him he better nip that bad attitude in the bud, lest other women decide to follow suit. So poor Vashti was made an example of. She tried to play her power card; didn’t she realize she was dealing with an empty deck?

The second woman is Esther, who soon became the new queen. Yep, women could be that easily replaced. Esther was subjected to the same treatment and oppression of her era, but her story ended very differently than Vashti’s. Instead of struggling for power, she worked within the system. Esther played her cards right and was able to wield power over the king. Like Vashti, she was dealt the physical beauty card. But her hand also held the character trait of self control. Rather than use her good looks as a weapon, she employed them as a tool to influence the heart of the king. Through a series of events that required patience and perfect timing, Esther was able to save the Jewish people, her people, from being destroyed.

In a nutshell, how are we employing our woman power? Thankfully, we don’t live in the 5th century BC. But as long as there are people, there will be social justice issues. They aren’t as despicable as in those days of old, but we deal with them just the same. Like Vashti, I can stubbornly stomp my feet about it. Or like Esther, I can seek God’s way to live in grace and righteousness. God created me as a woman after all, and He empowers me more than I realize.

King’s Crown

P.S. Did anyone else think about My Big Fat Greek Wedding?

Maria: “Let me tell you something, Toula. The man is the head, but the woman is the neck. And she can turn the head any way she wants.”

38. Woman Power

I did it! I completed Kings 1 and 2, Chronicles 1 and 2, and Ezra and Nehemiah. I’m past this passage in Esther, so here’s the next block of the Bible Sampler Quilt:

Royal

The photo makes it look very poorly executed. To be honest, it is. I tried my best, and besides, I’m pretty sure it’ll quilt out.

Before I reflect on Esther, I’d like to write about the books I finished. The Israelites, God’s chosen, seemed to fall into a predictable cycle. If I had to summarize as if writing a school book report, it would go something like this:

First, they seek to please God and follow His law. God is pleased and they enjoy peace and prosperity.

The next generation laxes up on the law and first thing you know they are intermarrying with Canaanite women. Pretty soon they’re all worshiping false idols and performing evil rituals on their children.

God is not pleased, He removes His blessing, and the children of Israel suffer. They lose their temple, their land, and their freedom.

Then a noble ruler, an obedient priest with a remnant of true believers, and/or a genuine prophet steps up. They’re all God needed, and He uses them to bring the Israelites back to their roots. They repent, cleanse the temple, put away the evil wives and rituals, and begin again.

God is pleased, and the children of Israel prosper in peace.

You can guess what happens next. The theme repeats generation to generation.

I don’t think the great nation of Israel fell because of mighty battles, political coups, or governmental decrees. I’m persuaded to believe that women were the cause. Those non-Jewish women used their womanly powers to turn the heads of the men. Soon their hearts followed, which led them away from God. I can imagine the “discussions” that occurred when they were setting up their newlywed tents. Maybe they put up some resistance, but the men eventually caved and allowed a Baal shrine in the corner. Even back then, they knew: “When Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”.

Stay tuned for Queen Esther’s use of woman power.

Pullin’ Weeds and Pickin’ Stones

After daily sustained effort, it looks like the weeds are finally losing the battle. I’m literally picking the weeds out of the stones, so I thought I could refer to my previous post about gardening and quilting.

Speaking of, I inched along and got this done:

(View from the inside)

It has been a week since Mother’s Day, and as I pulled weeds, I found myself thinking about mothers, and mothering, and me.

Maybe it’s because I spent Mother’s Day alone. More accurately, it was spent with my husband, who made me the mother of four wonderful grown adult children. Because our dog was convalescing from surgery, we had to stay home. The one offspring that wanted to come over chose to stay home with her dog instead. But the other two within driving distance didn’t make the effort to drop in with a card or a hug. So it was a very quiet day for us two old folks. I grew up in a large family and being alone was a treat during those years. But now that I can be alone, I find myself checking in with my feelings about it. I can only surmise that my kids knew I’d be fine without them gathered around me on Mother’s Day. And I was.

I was born of Depression-era parents. They grew up with the facts of ration cards, iron lungs, and hunger. Yet they’d talk about their childhoods with fondness; recalling good times shared with extended family. I realize now that the want, the worry of big brothers fighting abroad in the war, the silver stars appearing in neighbor’s windows, basically, the fear – was swept under their childhood rugs. It was the only way to get on and grow up and get out. And you didn’t give your parents any guff. They had more than enough to deal with already. I think about my grandmother, mothering her thirteen children through all of this. What did she feel on Mother’s Day?

My childhood was spent in the midcentury modern years, and all dad and mom wanted was for me and my sibs to enjoy being kids. They didn’t indulge us, but they didn’t pressure us to grow up before our time. We were good kids, so we did our part by pursuing carefree childhoods, and didn’t give them much guff. When problems arose, my parents swept them under the rug and ignored them. Was that still the best strategy to use now that the Depression and WW2 were over? On Mother’s Day, did my mom think about her own childhood and compare it with the one she provided for us?

Then it was my turn. The fear of polio and poverty were updated to new threats to my precious children. My parents worried about the bad influences that may have lurked in our neighborhood and school. But I had the entire world, filled with both good and evil, lurking behind the keys of my kid’s computer keypads. Instead of being exposed to the one odd kid who knew how to make smoke bombs; my own children could have access to lots more dangerous information than that if left unsupervised on the internet.

So we did our best to restrain and control computer use. As we struggled to keep the monsters at bay on the darker side of the web, our own precious children would give us guff from their side. I didn’t like being put into this position at all.

I loved being a mother, but mothering was no fun at all.

During their turbulent teen years, I heard a great quote – “You can’t parent effectively from a place of fear”. I had an instant attitude adjustment. From that time, I chose to recall the promises of God and put them in front of my motherly worries and fears.

I think of the mother of Jesus. How did she manage to mother Jesus without worry and fear being her constant companions? She had the ultimate evil attacking her Son from the day He was born in that lowly manger. I can’t even imagine how she held up as the plan unfolded and revealed what would happen to Him in order to save the world from sin and death. I can only surmise that she knew that she was not alone.