"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
January 22, 2020
Jon had an aunt who was a quilter. She passed away before the two of us were married, so I was never privileged to meet her. But several months ago, her husband was getting ready to downsize and move to a smaller home, so invited me to come see if there was any of Marjory's quilting supplies that I could use; so I went with Jon's mom.
Marjory was an incredibly skilled quilter. I believe that she made a few quilts, but her specialty was making very intricate wall hangings; and she had won ribbons for her work. Every wall had at least 1-2 wall hangings on them throughout the home. When I went into her sewing room, I looked in the closet and there were hangers full of wall hangings folded up over them. She had made so many, that they ran out of room to put them. Her husband told me that she had been offered a lot of money for some of her wall hangings, but she refused to sell them.
When he moved, he didn't have room in his new home for all of the wall hangings and told my mother-in-law that he didn't know what to do with them all. I have no idea how many he had total, but there were many. The thing is, even though they were beautifully quilted and were works of art, a wall hanging has to be hung up to be enjoyed. But unless people visit the home, the only person who truly gets any enjoyment out of them is the homeowner. When they are hung on hangers in a closet or folded up in a box, then they serve no purpose at all. They are a form of artwork to be used as decoration. Marjory was talented at making pretty wall hangings.
Jon has another aunt that has quilted for many years. Nita has made beautiful quilts that have won blue ribbons, too. But she has enjoyed making quilts to be used for bedspreads or as a blanket. She also does very intricate work, and her quilts are a work of true beauty. I've only seen pictures of some of the quilts she has made, since she lives in Washington, but they were absolutely gorgeous. She also is very talented and skilled.
I've looked at the pictures of some of her quilts and been awed at the detail and beauty. Nita wants her quilts to be used; not put away for safe-keeping or used for decoration. We have had this conversation, that quilts are made to be enjoyed and used and should never be put up to be preserved.
I started making quilts a couple years ago. What I enjoy making most are lap quilts. I've made a couple that Jon and I use on our bed; and made one for Jon's brother to use as a bedspread. But other than that, have made the smaller sizes. I've made around 45 quilts so far. Four of those were ordered by people for gifts; which I truly do not enjoy making quilts to be sold, because it is too much pressure for perfection and takes the fun out of quilting. I've made both Jon and myself a lap quilt, which we use daily to cover up with while we are watching TV or sitting in our recliners relaxing or napping on the couch. Other than that, I've given away the others, mostly to family members, as gifts.
Most of my quilts have been simple patterns. I want them to be pretty, but don't like making a bunch of individual blocks that have to be matched up and sewn together. I prefer using pretty or cute fabrics, then making something that is simpler that is enjoyable and relaxing to sew together.
I want my quilts to be used. If they get dirty, they can be tossed in the washing machine and washed. But I want them to be enjoyed and have purpose. I want the owners of each quilt to use them and wear them out! I don't want the quilts I make to be folded up and hidden away somewhere; but what would make me happy would be for them to have a purpose and be thoroughly enjoyed by each person whom I've made one for.
Use them when you're sick and need a blanket.... use them to cover up with when you're relaxing or napping.... use them to throw on the ground for a picnic... use them to wrap your child or grandchild up in.... take it with you to cover up with if you have to stay at the hospital with someone.... throw it in the car to use on road trips.... fold it up and use as a pillow.... I don't care how you use it, but just enjoy it and let the quilt I made serve a purpose!
Like these three different examples, our lives are like a quilt. We were knit together in our mother's womb by the Creator of all things, God. We each have different purposes and callings. There is something that we are all placed on earth to do. But we have to make the choice whether we are going to embrace what God has called us to do, hide away in a closet, just look pretty, or serve a purpose.
If we are like the first example that I used, we are content to only be used or have a purpose within the church. People have to go inside the church to see Jesus in our lives. We may look pretty and be skilled and intricately woven together by the Father, but keep our relationship with Him inside one place.... or hidden within a closet. There are talents and gifts that we have, but no one ever sees them because they are kept inside the church or tucked hidden away somewhere. There are many who would enjoy seeing what God has created us to do, but we want to keep it all to ourselves or only share with a select few. We may "look" pretty, but until we avail ourselves to allow the Father to distribute what He has placed inside of us so that others can see and enjoy and be touched and blessed, then only a handful of people will ever see and know what the Father has gifted us to do. Sometimes letting go of things is difficult. But it's only when we do so, that our abilities and talents are effective and can touch the hearts of others.
When I think of the second example, I think of those whom God has called and who are more known publicly; those such as Billy Graham, Bill and Gloria Gaither, Smith Wigglesworth, Fanny Crosby, etc. Their ministries touching thousands of lives around the world through preaching or their songs. They used the skills that God placed within them beautifully and served their purpose well. Thousands came to know Jesus through the preaching of Billy Graham, Smith Wigglesworth, D.L. Moody, and many others whose names you can recall. Countless lives have been changed through the songs written by Bill and Gloria Gaither, Fanny Crosby; and many others whose hymns and songs we may know so well.
They are those individuals who beautifully show Jesus to the world. They are the "ribbon winners", who are often put on display; yet they are willing to serve a purpose and desire to be used up for the kingdom of God. They don't want to just be a show piece that is hung up to look pretty; but they want God to be seen in everything that they do and be used daily to serve whatever purpose that God makes available to them.
The third example is probably the category that many christians would fall into. They are willing for their Creator to use them however He desires. They aren't content to be hidden away in a closet somewhere; yet their names will never be well known around the world. Their greatest desire is for people to be touched by their life in some way. They want to make a difference in the lives of those around them, in whatever way God opens up for them. They aren't afraid to get their hands dirty, if that's what it takes to help someone. They want to be used up for Jesus! The greatest contentment comes when these believers are involved in doing the work of the Father; whether in big or small ways.
Here is a truth that I've learned from quilting: Not every single quilt turns out perfect. Some are flawed in small ways that most people wouldn't notice, other than the one who is making it. I've had a couple that it seems like I am constantly ripping out seams; but in the end they turned out fine. I recently made one that I ended up tossing aside, because the fabric twisted and wouldn't lie flat no matter what I did.
Sometimes, I know that it's my fault for the problems I have. I get in a hurry so I'm not as careful as I need to be. I get over-confident and try to sew a seam by eyeing it, without first lining it up and pinning it in place. I get bored with a quilt and want to finish it, so try to take shortcuts or rush through it. I forget to check to make sure that the front, batting, and backing are all straight and lying flat, then get an extra piece of fabric caught in the seam, then have to rip it out.
Then there have been times when it feels like no matter what I do, I keep running into issues. I try to do the right things, pinned it together when and where needed, am careful..... but it just doesn't turn out well. It gets frustrating! There is nothing that I'm seemingly doing to cause all the issues that I have; like the quilt top that recently didn't turn out well. It was a more difficult pattern, and I tried to be careful to match seams and measure and do everything right. But then it twisted and wouldn't lie flat and looked a mess!! I've determined that sometimes the weave of some bolts of fabric are not right, which affects the final outcome. Sometimes the batting is not woven right and it affects how it lays and how it quilts.
Sometimes in life we can do everything that we know is right, but situations happen that are frustrating and disappointing and upsetting. Oh, there are times when we cause our own distress or problems by trying to take shortcuts in life or not being observant or making poor decisions; and we reap the consequences. But sometimes life takes twist that are messy and it affects our lives; even when we are being faithful to God and living out His purpose.
It's during those times that we have to choose to not give up and not be a quitter!
There is someone in particular, who has been going through some tough times for the past several months, that I want to make a quilt for. She is who I had in mind when I started the recent quilt that twisted and didn't turn out right; and I had to end up scrapping it. It was frustrating and I ended up tossing away fabric that I'd spend money on. So I started a second, easier, quilt-as-you-go quilt. The batting that I'm using for this quilt seems to be woven incorrectly, which is making it harder than normal to quilt. I'm making a third of the way through and have already had to rip out two seams. It is aggravating!! I'm trying to be careful and do everything right; and I've still had these issues. So I have to make a choice: Do I give up quilting altogether, because the last two quilts have been messy and problematic and frustrating and cost me time and money; or do I rip out seams when necessary, overcome my frustrations and weariness in having to toss my work aside and cut my losses or have to redo my work, and keep going? The truth is, I've had many more successes than failures when making quilts.
Many times people get frustrated in life, upset with God when things don't go as planned or is messy, and choose to trust in themselves over trust in God. The truth is, they've received more blessings, have had more successes than failures, but their focus becomes set on the few bad things and not the good that God has done. They fail to see that even when things are at their worst, God has always been present and a constant in their life.
I encourage you today to see God in your every day life. Stop focusing on what's wrong or the negative, and redirect your focus to the blessings and goodness of God. Our Father has knit us each together and knows every single detail about our lives; even more so than we do. Let's choose to be used in the purpose for which He has created us!
Sometimes it can be hard to find a way to share your talents in a meaningful way. For example, my talents are mostly related to computers. I can share that talent by helping at church, but I don't really know any way (outside of this newsletter) to use that talent to share God with others outside church.
But our church has started a great ministry in our neighborhood that I can help support. We have a small box outside the fence where we can drop off various supplies, like canned food, bottled water, fruit, towels, socks, etc. Anyone in the neighborhood who has a matching need can stop by and get what they need. I can help by stocking it or providing for it.
Another church in the area has a great program where they send church members to help at various churches who have needs, like mowing lawns, painting, cleaning, or even construction.
You don't necessarily have to go through a church to mow someone's lawn or shovel snow, but it can be a great way to work together and get to know others in your church. It can also cut the job down to a better size and make it more fun.
1 package beef stew meat
1 stick butter
1 package au jus gravy mix
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 package cream cheese
32 ounce beef broth or 4 cups water
Sliced mushrooms (optional)
Place beef stew meat in crockpot; sprinkle the dry package of au jus gravy mix over the top. Place the stick of butter on top of the meat. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4 hours.
After meat is tender, add a can of cream of mushroom soup and beef broth or water (I've used both and they both work). Cut cream cheese up into chunks and stir in (it melts faster if cut into chunks). If you want to add fresh mushrooms at this time, do so. Cook for an additional 30 minutes.
Add in egg noodles (I don't measure -- just add in until it looks right), stirring so the noodles are covered with the gravy mixture so they don't dry out. Cook for an additional 15-20 minutes until the noodles are tender. You can then stir in some grated or shredded parmesan cheese.
**If you don't have stew meat, you can also use round steak or something similar, then cut into chunks once it is tender. Also, if you want the juice to be thicker, you can add in 2 cans of cream of mushroom soup, instead of one. If you don't have cream cheese, you could use 8 ounces of sour cream instead.
Recently, I was thinking of memories of a particular cousin, Sherry, who was the same age as my next to the oldest sister. She passed away from breast cancer about fourteen years ago. She and my sister were best friends growing up. Her mom and my mom were sisters, so we visited their family a lot.
When Sherry and Randall (her husband) were dating, they took me to a local dairy queen (wasn't an official Dairy Queen, but that's what we called it) and bought me my first banana split. I was probably age six at the time. For the first few years after they were married, they would send me a birthday card each year and would include a gift sometimes; until they begin their own family. One of those gifts was a baby blue knit body suit. That is in the 1970's when body suits were in style.
Sherry had a laugh, that was more of a giggle; and when she laughed, she laughed with her whole face and body. A short time before she passed away, she came to the Cancer Treatment Center in Tulsa and I was able to visit with her a couple times. This was just a few months after Jon and I were married, and Sherry had never met him, so I was able to introduce her to him. It will be a wonderful time when our family is all united for eternity in heaven!
You will never allow someone to love you more than you love yourself.
You teach people how to treat you by the way you treat yourself. - Kris Vallotton
We love you!
Loretta & Jon