August 31, 2015

In Between

Devotion for the Week...

I am an avid reader, and I enjoy books from different genres. One of my favourite genres is historical fiction, and over the years I have read a few books that featured a governess as the heroine. I had never thought about it before, but the governess was often in a rather lonely position within the household.

She was a servant, but was often better educated than the housemaids and other servants. She was also held to a rigid moral standard, more so even than the other servants, since her actions were seen as directly affecting the family, especially the children. Because of these factors, the servants didn't really accept her as one of their own.

She spent most of her time with the family, but she was never allowed to forget that she was a servant, not a member of the family. This left the governess in between the family and the servants...not really either one, not really accepted by either group as an equal.

Christians are in a similar situation. After we accept Jesus as our Saviour, we continue to live in this world, but we are not really of this world any longer. Jesus said about his disciples, (and by extension, us), "They are not of the world, even as I am not of it" (John 17:16).

How are we not of the world? Because we have accepted Jesus, we are no longer ruled by Satan, whom Jesus called "the prince of this world," (John 14:30 and 16:11).  "Our citizenship is in heaven" (Philippians 3:20) and we are told "Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world" (1 John 2:15,16).

Of course, we still live in the world, so it's hard to balance that being in the world but not of the world, isn't it? We earn a living, raise our families, spend time with friends, take vacations, pursue hobbies and all the other things that are involved in living our lives. As it is so often, that balance is a matter of our priorities and our focus. As an example, we have to earn a living so we can buy food, clothing and other necessities, but if we pursue wealth for its own sake then we are acting as those who are of the world rather than as citizens of heaven.

The world is full of tempting sights, experiences and demands that threaten to pull our focus from God and onto how we can make ourselves comfortable in the here and now, or how we can get more of what the world insists we need to have, or how we can manage to do everything people expect of us. It's easy to get our priorities messed up if we listen only to the world. After all, the things of the world serve the prince of this world, who wants nothing more than to drag us away from living the way God wants us to live.

We need to be constantly aware of our situation. Constantly remembering that we belong to God and that we are to live according to His will, not that of the world.

The governess was in between because she wasn't accepted as one of the servants or as one of the family. The Christian's situation isn't exactly the same because, while we aren't really part of the world, we are fully accepted as citizens of heaven, through faith in Jesus. Unfortunately, we aren't in heaven and so we have to continue to balance in between, living as "foreigners and strangers on earth" (Hebrews 11:13), while waiting to one day be where we belong.

Do you feel that tug of being in between, of not fully belonging here in the world? How do you balance your citizenship in heaven with your life here in the world?

August 24, 2015

Content

Devotion for the Week...

I spent all of last winter looking forward to this summer because I couldn't wait to go camping. We haven't done much camping the last two years, so whenever we talked about what we should do this summer, I kept saying, "I just want to stay on the island and go camping. Lots of camping."

Well. Here we are in the latter part of August and I have yet to sleep in our tent. Mostly the weather has been awful. There was even a video circulating of the local TV meteorologist being mock arrested for trafficking in RDF (rain, drizzle and fog)! This past week the weather has been beautiful, but Nathan and Zachary were taking part in a drama camp, so we've been stuck home (isn't that always the way?).

While the summer has been relaxing, it certainly hasn't been the summer I was hoping for and there have been days I've had a hard time being okay with that because I really, really, really wanted to go camping. Several times it has taken a conscious decision to snap out of a bad mood caused by the crummy forecast before I could enjoy my day at all. On those days when I've been less than happy about the lack of camping, I've thought a lot about the verse that says, "I have learned to be content" (Philippians 4: 12). I wasn't quite remembering it right, as the verse actually says, "I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation", but either way, I was thinking mostly about the concept of learning to be content. 

Before I go any farther, let me say that I do realize that whether or not I get to go camping in a particular summer is a very minor issue. There are people who have to deal with things that are actually things, like illnesses, financial problems or the loss of a loved one. Camping or not really isn't a thing. Sometimes, though, it's not the issue we're dealing with so much as it is our attitude about that issue.

Whether or not we are content often comes down to our attitude. We can choose to focus on the things we don't have, or we can choose to accept those things and move on. We all know people who just aren't happy, no matter what, don't we? Chronic complainers, fault finders and generally negative. Yet, sometimes, I look at what they're complaining about and think that if they'd simply look at the situation a little differently their entire attitude would change for the better. 

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul wrote, "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength" (vv 12,13).

I find it interesting that Paul wrote about having enough food or not. In my mind, that qualifies as a thing. Something major enough to be a big deal if you don't have it, and something that you could reasonably be very upset about having to deal with. And yet, Paul says he has learned to be content even in that situation. So, obviously, this secret that Paul has learned can be applied to anything, from a lack of camping all the way up to a lack of food and beyond.

And what is that secret? "I can do all this through him who gives me strength" (v. 13). Jesus gives us the strength to endure those situations that are less than ideal. Though He will not necessarily change our circumstances, He can change our attitudes. In Him, we are able to do as Paul suggested earlier in the same chapter of Philippians:  "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things" (v.8).

There are two things I feel I should point out. First of all, being content in a situation doesn't necessarily mean that we never try to change that situation. When Paul was hungry I doubt he turned down food if it suddenly became available. Likewise, if we are sick, there is nothing wrong with seeking medical help or taking medication. As I said earlier, being content is a matter of attitude. We can have a good attitude even while we are working to make our situations better.

Second, I feel I should point out that there are times when the issue is more than a question of contentment. Depression and grief (and likely other situations I can't think of right now) go beyond simple discontent and are an entirely different issue. Though focusing on Jesus will certainly help in both situations, resolving them is not as easy as just choosing to change our focus. Many times people oversimplify things and say that if we have Jesus then we should never be sad - that we should be able to choose joy no matter what the situation. Often we can, but not always, and we need to be careful to avoid that oversimplification.

What about you? Is your natural tendency to be content, or are you still working on learning the secret, as Paul did? What do you find helps to change your attitude when it needs a little adjustment?





PS. In the interest of full disclosure, and because I think it's an example of God's sense of humour, I will tell you that I am writing this devotion ahead of time...on the same day when I am also packing for a camping trip. :) Yep - the weather has finally cleared at a time when we are able to leave town and so we are OUT OF HERE!

August 20, 2015

Round Trip Quilts - Last Round

I have finished the last bit of sewing on the last of the Round Trip Quilts. I'm a little sad about that fact, to be honest. This has been a great group of women to work with, and it has been fun to see what everyone has added to the quilts each round. I'm very happy and excited that my quilt will soon be making its way home to me, but also sad to know that Jennifer won't be mailing me a new quilt to work on every few weeks.

However, this last quilt is a real beauty! This quilt belongs to Mary, who blogs at See Mary Quilt, and it is so full of gorgeous colour. Mary started us off with this rainbow star and the others kept the rainbow colour order going around the center.
Since I would be the last one to add to the quilt, I decided it needed a dark frame which would also echo the dark borders that had already been added. I ended up adding three borders - a narrow black/white border, a narrow low volume border and then a wider black/white border. All three are somewhat scrappy.
 And here is the finished quilt! Mary, if you don't like it, I'll be happy to keep it here ;)
Thanks to Mary, Jennifer, Heather, Chelsea, Christina, Kim and Liz for making this round robin bee such a great experience!

August 19, 2015

Delphine Skirt

I made myself a new skirt last week, and I love it!
The pattern is the Delphine Skirt from the book Love at First Stitch. It went together very easily, even considering I adjusted the pattern to account for my waist fitting a larger size than my hips. I made the larger waistband, but actually find the waist is a little bigger than I need. Not so big that it's falling off, but just big enough that it can spin a little throughout the day. Next time I'll make the waistband a size smaller.
I bought this gorgeous black denim at a local fabric store (2 1/2 hours away counts as local around here!). I will admit I was a little nervous cutting into it. :)

The skirt features an invisible zipper, which sounded rather intimidating. I've sewn zippers into bags before (twice), but I figured this would be harder and it was, though not by as much as I thought it would be. Of course, it took me 3 1/2 tries, mostly because I put it too low in the skirt on my second try. In the end, I'm really pleased with how it looks, especially since the waistband seams are almost perfectly matched! When I turned the facing for the waistband, I did a much nicer job on one corner than the other, which is why the top of the left side of the zipper looks lower. I figure I'll mostly be wearing the skirt with a shirt out over it, so no one will ever see the uneven top of the zipper.

As a quilter, I'm used to a seam allowance that only measures 1/4", but sewing clothes requires a 5/8" seam allowance. It looks huge! Look at all that fabric sticking out to the right of the presser foot...when I'm quilting I use a slightly narrower foot and the fabric goes right along the edge of the foot. I think keeping that seam allowance even was almost as daunting as the zipper!
That's two projects from the book now. The first was a pair of pajama shorts that I haven't gotten around to photographing yet, though I've been wearing them ever since I finished them. Next up is a dress. The fabric is ordered and once it arrives I'll have to work up the courage to tackle more new skills...like sleeves and darts...oh, and another invisible zipper. Learning new things is fun!

August 17, 2015

Vacuuming

Devotion for the Week...

I am the janitor for our church, a fact which will amuse those of you who have previously read my thoughts on cleaning. We are a small town church, so it's not a big building, and vacuuming the main sanctuary takes me about 45 minutes. In the winter, the parking lot sometimes becomes a sheet of ice and a truck comes to coat it with sand to make it safer for people to drive and walk on. There is a certain satisfaction in vacuuming those weeks, when there is the constant rattle of tiny grains of sand being sucked up by the vacuum. At this time of year, though, there isn't much dirt on the floor, so it sometimes feels like I don't even need to vacuum.

Of course, I do still need to vacuum. Even if I can't see or hear it, I know there is dust on the floor. If I decided not to bother vacuuming for a few weeks, the dust and dirt would eventually become visible. I was thinking about this while vacuuming the church last week and the thought of cleaning before things actually look dirty kept circling around in my mind, along with the thought, "That's how we're supposed to be spiritually." We're never supposed to let ourselves get so dirty spiritually that the dirt piles up. The 'dirt' of course, is sin. We all sin, even after we've accepted Jesus into our lives, but "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). When we confess, He makes us clean again.

I think it was Chuck Swindoll of Insight for Living who said, "Keep short accounts with God." In other words, don't let the sins pile up. When you do wrong, confess it. Immediately. Don't wait until next week, adding another layer of dust and dirt to your spirit.

Most weeks, I could probably walk in the door of the church sanctuary, look quickly at the floor and declare it clean enough to not need vacuuming. Likewise, we may look quickly at our lives and think there's nothing there that needs to be confessed, no spiritual dirt that needs to be cleaned up. The fact is, though, I don't think I've ever vacuumed that entire floor without picking up at least one thing I could hear rattle its way into the vacuum. The dirt is there, even if I can't see it with just a quick glance. Is there spiritual dirt we don't see when we only give our lives a quick glance?

Psalm 139: 23,24 says, "Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Asking God to search you certainly sounds like it would bring about more than a quick glance, doesn't it? That can be a scary prospect for those of us who like to think we're 'good people', who do our best to live right. But if we want to keep ourselves from getting spiritually dirty, we need to deal with sin right away, before it builds up. Truly asking Him to search us, to find 'any offensive way' in us, would reveal every little bit of spiritual dirt lurking in our lives. Once that dirt is found, of course, it can then be confessed and removed.

As janitor, it's my job to keep the church clean, not to wait until the dirt is visible before I deal with it. As Christians, we need to keep ourselves spiritually clean by being sensitive to the Holy Spirit as He reveals our sinfulness, and then confessing those sins right away, rather than waiting for them to pile up.

August 10, 2015

Consider the Circumstances

Devotion for the Week...

Nathan has a penchant for melodrama when he's injured. We are trying to teach him that, when he's hurt, it's okay to cry, but he doesn't need to screech so loud the whole neighbourhood can hear him. He also doesn't need to continue saying "ow" long after the scrape happens. A couple of times, fine, but not five minutes worth!

Last week, when I was changing bandages for him, I could have reminded him that 'ow-ing' repeatedly is not necessary. Instead, I considered the circumstances - he had taken a nasty fall off his bike (while doing a jump off a ramp - he's melodramatic and a daredevil!) and now he had two stitches in his shoulder. When I dabbed ever so gently to clean around the stitches, it hurt. In this case, the rules weren't quite right for the situation. The 'ow-ing' continued, though I have to admit he did fairly well and the melodrama was limited.

One day Jesus healed a man who had been an invalid for 38 years. Jesus simply said to him, "'Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.' At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked" (John 5:8,9). Can you imagine? For 38 years this man couldn't get up on his own. He couldn't walk anywhere and now he's instantly healed and instead of spending all his days lying on a mat he can pick up the mat and carry it home - or toss it in the nearest garbage can if he'd rather never see it again! 

Can you picture for a moment how excited this man must have been? How he maybe jumped and danced a little, testing out his newly healed legs? Or maybe he walked with his head down, staring at his feet in amazement. Did he laugh as he walked? Was he running home to tell his family what had happened? The Bible is often a little lacking in details like this, but I think it's safe to say this was no ordinary, ho-hum walk.

Enter the rules. The Jewish leaders in Jesus' day had a hard time letting go of their rules. They weren't good at considering whether they should maybe relax the rules a little considering the circumstances. They saw the man carrying his mat and immediately pounced on him. "'It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.'" (v. 10). 

The Sabbath. There were lots of rules about what could and could not be done on the Sabbath and apparently carrying a mat was on the 'don't' list. But seriously, this man was walking for the first time in 38 years!! Who cares about the mat in his hands? Shouldn't everyone who sees him be celebrating with him because of this amazing thing God has done in his life? 

The man even tried to explain the situation to them: " 'The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk,' " (v. 11) but they completely missed the point. "So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?” (v. 12). They were too focused on their rules to even hear the part about the man being made well, to see what God had done for him. Sad isn't it? 

Unfortunately, we can be a bit hung up on our rules too, can't we? Whether it's the language a person uses, the music they listen to or the clothes they wear, we each have our own rules as to what is appropriate. If someone doesn't follow our rules, we can be quick to point out the error of their ways and suggest they change their behaviour. 

But do we always consider the circumstances? Do we look carefully before we jump in with our rules? If someone is coming to church in clothes we think aren't quite appropriate, we might be quick to tell her she needs to dress differently. But if we take the time to talk with her, maybe we'd find out that she's been learning about God for the first time and now she wants to accept Jesus into her life. Then we could celebrate with her instead of criticizing her! Or maybe she's hurting, and we could pray with her. Sometimes the rules aren't the most important thing.

There is a place for rules, absolutely. But next time we're tempted to pounce on someone and insist they follow our rules immediately, let's pause for a moment to consider the circumstances. Maybe they're hurting and need our understanding, or maybe they're celebrating and we can join in with them.

August 05, 2015

Thankful Heart Embroidery

Here, finally, is my third Craft it Forward gift. This one was made for Shauna, of Shauna's World. I had a hard time deciding what to make for Shauna, until I noticed how often she was linking to Yvonne's 'Quilty Thankful Thursday' at Quilting Jet Girl. Then, when I saw this graphic, I knew it would make a great embroidered design for Shauna.
 I framed it in a hoop, which seemed like just the simple finish this design needed.
It was my first time finishing a hoop, so the back isn't quite as neat as I would have liked. It won't be my last time finishing a hoop this way, though, so hopefully I'll be able to make improvements next time.
I really enjoyed making this for Shauna!

It also feels good to finally have all three gifts made and sent! I felt guilty about how long it took me to finish each one, even though I really liked working on all three projects. I think sometimes I'm too quick to chase after the next new project, which leaves current projects collecting dust. Do you do that, too? Which projects have you left collecting dust lately?

August 03, 2015

Love Worth Celebrating!

Devotion for the Week...

On Friday, Paul and I will celebrate our 16th wedding anniversary. 
Did you see how we celebrated our anniversary last year? We don't have any plans like that this year, though every now and then Paul does joke about what design we should choose this time around.

After 16 years married, no one knows me better than Paul does. He has seen my good moments, yes, but he has also seen me when I'm complaining, or whining, or being selfish. He has been the one to come into the room and quietly let me know when I'm being too hard on one of the boys. Even knowing me as well as he does, he still loves me!

Over the years I have unintentionally said and done things that hurt his feelings. And yet, even with that, he still loves me!

He has been my cheerleader so many times, encouraging me with my writing, my sewing and with my blog. He tells me he loves seeing the opportunities that have come about because of my blog, and seeing how I have changed because of them. He sees changes in me that I don't really notice myself.

Do you have someone who loves you that completely? I really hope you do. If you do, you know that it feels good to know you are loved no matter what, that someone will always be there when you need them, and that someone is on your side, cheering you on. To have, and to give, that kind of love through the years is certainly something worth celebrating.

But, there is Someone who knows me better than Paul does. Someone who loves me completely even though He knows the worst there is to know about me. Psalm 139:1-4 says this:

"You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely." 

God knows about the whining that only happens in my head, about the complaining I do silently, about the judgmental thoughts I have but don't actually share with anyone else. And He still loves me! Isn't it amazing to think that God, who actually knows us better than we know ourselves, loves us enough that He gave us Jesus?

One of the most famous Bible verses says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). He loved the world, yes, but the world is made of individuals and He loved each one of us enough to make a way for our relationship with Him to be restored.

Two things should be noted about God's love for us. First, that we have to accept it. He loves us, but there are plenty of people who refuse to accept that love. Just as a person has to accept another person's love before they can have a relationship, so we have to accept God's love for us before we can have a relationship with Him. We accept His love by believing that Jesus came and died for our sins and by accepting His gift of salvation through faith in Jesus. As John 3:16 says, 'whoever believes' will have eternal life.

Second, God's love for us will never end. Marriages can end in divorce, even after decades of anniversaries, and even when everyone else thought the couple was happy. God's love for us will never change, and never end. James wrote, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows" (James 1:17). If God does not change, then His love for us is constant and will never change. It will always be just as it is now, because He accepts us as we are, through Jesus.

That love, then, is certainly something worth celebrating too!

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