Oh, we must embrace the triangles!
So many fiddly bits to that last one in particular, but I think it came out alright. Using some favorite prints is helping me get through these not-favorite blocks! Onward and upward!
I debated and waffled on this goal, but I’ve finally decided on something I think I can accomplish!
…need a background! And then they will look something like this:
The goal is a completed top, but if I finish the whole quilt this month, I won’t be disappointed!
Linking up with ALYoF!
To the sea! To the sea!
Follow my feet up the Wearmouth quays
Where the gull brays
And memory keeps
Where old men watch the turn of days
And graves still pray
Past shipwrights’ industry
Looking for my heart to be
Rooted in a land where my
Soul is told to breathe
But I am not free
Wild heights and quarried ways
Hewn by hands in elder days
Or set by mind at dawn’s design
Still call to me, still call to me
And in the pounding, grey-lit surf
Waves convulsing, giving birth
I send my spirit to the wind
I soar from here, I’m gathered in
I’ve called this land my home, and for it
Given all to bless, restore it
To my gifts, the land has shuddered
Cannot claim me as a mother
So to the wind and to the sea
I will return where I am free
(You are the only Ten-I-see)
For my heart beats Tsalagi
The above attempts to reconcile and understand my heart’s churnings while in Northern England. Photos are from Sunderland. Paintings completed in Tennessee in early 2014. All rights reserved.
I never really know what to say here. Here are 4 more blocks I’ve made for my Tula Pink City Sampler! (Do I even need to say that? At what point am I redundant?)
I am happy these blocks allowed me to feature some larger Tula prints! But I must say, this next section – focusing on triangles – may be my least favorite. For whatever reason, I am not very fond of triangles. Maybe it’s because these tend to be small, and there is inherent waste in the method described in the book. Or I just don’t like fooling with bias stretch. But this first one turned out nicely, so maybe my fears are for nothing!
Thirty-six is a nice number to lay out and see progress, I think!
Just a quick post to claim my blog for those who prefer to follow via Bloglovin’!
I am getting in right under the wire with my Lovely Year of Finishes goal! I stitched the last seam of my quilt top for P. L. with an episode of The Great British Sewing Bee to keep me company. It’s fitting (pun intended), I believe, as I’m calling this original pattern “The Queen’s Rose”.
There is a long story behind every bit of fabric in this top, but I’ll save those details for when it is sandwiched, quilted, and bound. Each fabric is full of loving wishes, some more overtly expressed than others.
I celebrated my finish with an attempt at an adapted recipe for Be-Ro scones! A few little flubs didn’t hurt the flavor, and I had to have a bit of irony with my tea. Altogether, a proper way to polish off the month of February!
Linking up with A Lovely Year of Finishes!
The following addresses a mature topic and is inappropriate for children under 15 years of age without parental supervision.
I was 23 years old and a graduate student when he came to read to my class. He had arranged it with my mentor, so she caught the whole thing on film. I remember as he held out the ring thinking, “Is this what this is supposed to feel like? This anticlimactic?” But I said yes, and I went on through the stages of planning.
Four months later I called it off, finally having come to my senses. Not knowing what I really wanted, I went along with the plans we had made together. They were really my ideas anyway. He didn’t have much direction and was riding my energy and ambition. That was the problem. He needed a mother, not a wife. So it wasn’t betrayal of my values or holding onto the past that kept me moving towards my goals, waiting out the interim at my parents’ house. Out of pure necessity I plugged in at a local church. And of course my tender heart was susceptible to the kindness of a worship leader I met there.
One evening, after an emotional conversation about our hearts, sitting on the church lawn under the floodlights in the warm summer air (lightning bugs had long since retired), he looked at me gleefully and said, “You know what I’m excited about?” I didn’t even have time to formulate the thought of being his girlfriend when he blurted, “No more secret sin!”
Way to kill the mood, I thought. He went on to talk about how he and his friends got together and confessed their deepest, darkest sins and prayed for one another, about the healing that brought, about how shame, defused of its power, left entirely.
That conversation and concept stuck with me. God was pressing my buttons in more ways than one. As you can imagine, my engagement had left its mark. However, the fact that I entered into it in the first place was an indication of the pain in my heart. Since leaving the denomination of my childhood as an adolescent, my relationship with my father had suffered. Disconnected from him, the young man who had pursued my hand in marriage held more sway. Now he was gone, and I was under my father’s authority again, but the rifts in our relationship remained. The last thing I wanted to do was be vulnerable with my father.
So I knew it was God when the thought ran across my mind, “I want you to confess masturbation to your father.”
Ugh. Some things are so traumatic that you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing when they happen. This was one of those times. I was in the kitchen getting a snack or a glass of water or something after dinner. My mother had gone to bed, and my father was in the living room. Silently, I swore at God. But I knew it was Him, and the more angry I became, the more convinced I was that there was no getting around this one.
Finally I made up my mind to just get it over with. I walked into the room, explained I had something to tell him that I felt God wanted me to say, but by no means did I want commentary on it or even response of any kind – and before I lost my nerve, I blurted what could be classified as confession. My father began to respond, but I stopped him and hightailed it out of the room.
All these years later, I go back to that story because it marked a turning point in my understanding of the power of sin and shame. I figured if I could confess my most shameful act to the man I trusted least in the world (at the time – God has since done remarkable things in our relationship), then there was nothing so terrible that it merited the effort it takes to conceal it from people I do trust.
Confession: I have masturbated since I confessed to my father. I’ve masturbated since I confessed to my pastor. And you own what else? I’ve overeaten. I’ve judged friends. I’ve let my temper loose. I’ve thought of myself more highly than I ought. I’ve run from facing my pain. I’ve withheld love knowing others would suffer, knowing others depended on me. I’ve broken commitments. I’ve talked behind people’s backs. I’ve been disrespectful. I’ve voiced my opinions of other drivers.
But you know what’s strange? I’m not ashamed.
It’s not that I think any of those behaviors are wonderful or useful or do any good. It’s not that the actions have no weight, don’t matter, or have no consequence. I am not actively pursuing them, nor am I making them part of my life. But when they occur, there is a distinction: they are actions, and I am me. I am not my actions any more than I am the clothes I put on.
It is easy to say, “I am not my career”. By that I am declaring that my identity is independent of my profession, salary, benefits, or status. My identity is deeper than my education and university degrees. Rather, my identity consists of my relationships, my values, my passions, my personality.
I don’t believe actions indicate identity. They are the effect, rather than the cause. So when I masturbate, I do not say, “I masturbate – therefore I struggle with masturbation.” I say instead, “I masturbated. That is not something I struggle with, not something that is part of me, so I wonder what is really going on here?” The sin strikes me as odd, an aberration. I know there is nothing good that comes of it, so logically, there is no reason to invest energy into something that has no payoff. While I am not saying the action is neutral or has no power, I am saying that the action, when treated as a symptom or an effect instead of an indication of personal weakness or flaws in my identity, is useful in revealing something true.
When I masturbate, I do so because I feel the need to be in control. I feel disconnected, powerless, perhaps misunderstood or lonely. My needs for intimacy are not getting met.
More often than not, I find sin – actions – reveal the heart. My heart surprises me. I am not as aware of it as I’d like to be, and if I am aware of what I’m feeling, I may be clueless as to why, or to what extent. How useful and how kind that God allows circumstances which have the potential to show us what’s really going on.
Are you sick of the term “masturbation” yet? I hope I’ve not desensitized you to it. For me, every time I type it, every time I go back over autocorrect’s inaccuracies – yes, I really do mean that word again – I am punching shame in the face. There is absolutely nothing shameful about needing love, needing intimacy, feeling powerless, feeling out of control. But that is not who I am. The reality is I am loved. I am intimately known. I am powerful, and I can make powerful decisions that impact my life and the lives of others.
Ultimately, every sin is just a symptom of needing more love. Logically, no action can create love. Only a person can love me. And only one Person knows me well enough to know how to love me. If you haven’t guessed it by now, my preschoolers on a Sunday morning could tell you – the answer is (usually, always) Jesus.
Jesus knows what it feels like to be misunderstood. He knows what it is like to feel disconnected. Or powerless. Or out of control. He knows what it feels like to need love, to crave intimacy. And that’s all well and good to have someone who can relate to you, but it’s another thing entirely to have someone willing to do something about it. And that’s the bit I can’t speak to. That’s the bit where it takes a choice to believe in the goodness, kindness, gentleness, graciousness, mercifulness, powerful capacity and passionate motivation of a perfect Father God to do something about meeting our particular needs. That’s the faith bit. And in that journey comes greater confidence of identity. It is at times like fighting a shopping cart (or “buggy”, as we say in the South) with a wonky wheel that wants to keep sending you to the left. There is a wrestle to turn the ship in motion as it prefers the deep channel of habit to the untested course that would have you veer towards God. And that’s where accountability and community come in. Often we need others to remind us of who we are, to keep us from being victims of the shadow puppet that is shame, thinking we are these godawful creatures when really we are magnificent beings. We need to remember there’s nothing so terrible that it’s worth the effort required to conceal it, and in the end, even if we are rejected, even if we are abandoned, even if the expected repercussions occur, we spoke in faith that it is better to err on the side of truth because that’s the side God is on.
It is okay to count the cost. Truth is costly. Taking ownership for actions has a price. But my analysis goes like this: if I lose my friends, I still have a Friend, so I win. If I lose my job, I still am the daughter of the King, so I’m provided for, so I win. If I lose my family, I still have a Father who loves me, and Jesus is a ridiculously fabulous Brother, so I win. If I lose my reputation, I am still accepted and endorsed by my Father, and He is still proud of me, so I win. If I lose my health, well, Jesus paid for my healing, and if it’s my time to die, I get to be with Him, so I win. If I lose everything, I still win.
I. Still. Win.
Because every step away from shame is a step towards God, and every step towards God is a step of faith, and every step of faith is a declaration of allegiance to the Truth that my identity is found in my relationship to my Father, not my actions. I am not what I do or what I’ve done. I am me, and I am His. He belongs to me, and I belong to Him.
He paid for my shame anyway. He bought it when He bought me, so I’m just giving Him what already belongs to Him anyway. It’s no big deal. He is not perturbed by it because He already disassembled it, removing the mechanism empowering it. So if it’s not a big deal to Him, why do I allow shame to make it a big deal for me? That doesn’t make sense. Furthermore, He gave me His identity, so if it’s not something inherent in who He is, it’s not inherent in who I am either.
Last week I heard critters in the attic above my bedroom. I’d heard them before, but as they scratched for a minute and then were still, I didn’t think anything of them. At the time, they weren’t here to stay, just popping in from the cold. But last week they were incessant. I endured the scritching, the scurrying, the gnawing. It was early in the morning, and even soothing music couldn’t drown them out. Finally I was annoyed enough to turn on the light, fumble for an appropriate whacking device, and drum on the ceiling. The scuttling stopped. I whacked a few more times for good measure and waited. Within a minute, those obnoxious varmints started again! I climbed up on the bed and banged loudly with my hands. This time I heard them retreat. The next morning, my father set mousetraps in the attic, and before the day was out, he got one. A few days later, a second trap caught what I imagine was the mate. Since then, there have been no annoying midnight wakings.
Whatever it is that is covered in shame is nothing more than a mouse in the attic. I can tolerate it, but it’s annoying. It has no place there, no right to disturb my sleep, and lord knows what treasures it’s gnawing and ruining while I let it go unchecked. But at the end of the day, it’s a mouse. It’s not endangered, not high on the food chain. It is not worth my lack of sleep. And beautifully, my Father has already set a surefire trap for it – named (all the preschool children together now!) Jesus, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the Father. Consider Him who endured such trials so that you will not lose heart and give up. (Loosely, Hebrews 12:2-3)
I’m not saying it isn’t costly, this wrestling out of the grip of shame. It takes effort and risk and some pride-swallowin’. But it is worth it. The truth is far sweeter – taste and see that the Truth is good – and the actions are not who we are anyway.
In any way I am able to bless you with wisdom, boldness, courage, strength and resolve, I do so now in Jesus’ name! Grace to you and peace, and may you fly higher on the fresh, bracing wind you were born to ride!
I dedicate these blocks to my cousin Andi. She recently informed me that she chose Tula Pink’s book as her first quilt. I look forward to seeing our different takes on the patterns!
Eep! Just now realizing that I’ve flipped a piece of Block 32! I think I’ll keep it as is. That’s one of the things I appreciate about this book – there is a good mix of blocks that aren’t so rigid in design that an oops doesn’t ruin the effect. Call it flexibility or modernity or laziness… I’m just happy not fixing it!
Have you ever attempted to read through the Bible in a year? I have. (Have you seen the feather in my cap? It’s a dead giveaway.) You can go to the Christian bookstores and buy Bibles divided and labeled for this purpose. In high school, I followed a program complete with workbook. I bought a small KJV and highlighter crayon and read like mad, ticking the boxes for each day’s readings as I went. Then I took that marked-up Bible and gave it to a favorite friend/foe in atheist/Christian debate. And I felt proud of myself because I had something else to add to my Curriculum Vitae that legitimized all my religious opinions, doubly proud because my behavior was demonstrating to a “lost” friend what “real Christians” are like. And if he ever became a Christian, it was because of my expert “witnessing”. He would be a jewel in my heavenly crown, an achievement, a way to make God proud of me.
It’s easy to do that, I think. Those of us familiar with Evangelical Christianity – and likely other forms of Christianity with which I have less experience – tend to have an interesting connection to the Bible. If it were a status on Facebook, some would be “in a relationship” or even “married” to the Bible. We have daily devotionals, attend Bible studies, cross-reference with our handy Greek and Hebrew lexicon apps. We take copious notes on every sermon (does anyone actually go back over those notes? Honestly now…)
And then we come to Scriptures like this:
21 “Not everyone who calls me Lord will enter God’s kingdom. The only people who will enter are those who do what my Father in heaven wants. 22 On that last Day many will call me Lord. They will say, ‘Lord, Lord, by the power of your name we spoke for God. And by your name we forced out demons and did many miracles.’ 23 Then I will tell those people clearly, ‘Get away from me, you people who do wrong. I never knew you.’
[Matthew 7:21-23, Easy-to-Read Version]
Though I’m not writing to debate theology, taking the above lines at face value certainly has the potential to upset an apple cart or two. We know enough about Jesus to realize He speaks both literally and figuratively, so we can allow for the idea that He might be referring to us in a very real sense. “There but by the grace of God go I,” as they say. It’s uncomfortable, this possibility that I could spend my life around God, even serving God, even experiencing the miraculous, even ministering to thousands, even operating in every spiritual gift… and still not know Him.
While we are open to this premise, the next few verses slam in:
They will be conceited, will love pleasure instead of God, 5 and will act as if they serve God [having a form/appearance of godliness/piety] but will not have his [or deny his/its] power.
[2 Timothy 3:4b-5a, Expanded Bible]
3 For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will reject the truth and chase after myths.
[2 Timothy 4:3-4, New Living Translation]
Suddenly I want to change my relationship status with the Bible to “it’s complicated”.
I have heard it said, “Every time you read the Bible, you get a revelation of God.” I like that statement. It is neat and tidy and completely absolves me of having my own biases and opinions when I approach the Bible. It assumes that the Bible has the power to overcome all my judgments, experiences, thoughts, wounds, and ideas when I read it. If the Bible says it, it must be true.
Or it must mean what I think it means.
And this is dangerous territory to traverse because we see how our culture loves to twist the Bible. For example, we who build defenses against legalizing gay marriage by using passages of Leviticus are reminded by our adversaries of similar restrictions against bacon and poly-cotton blends. Or if we choose to defend our stance with New Testament allusions to homosexuality, we forget about “abstaining from blood” (Acts 15:20, multiple translations) when we grill out.
Again, I’m not here to debate. I’m just pointing out that, hard as it is to admit, our critics might be right about us. To paraphrase Don Finto, we read the Bible to gain support for our own beliefs, not to find out what it really says.
And we forget that the Bible is actually a Person. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God from the beginning. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
There was a time in my life where God said to me, “I don’t want you to read the Bible until you can read it without feeling guilty that you haven’t.” (Similarly, He later said, “I don’t want you to pray for another person aloud until you can pray my heart for them.”) In my case, this was the most heretical thing I’d experienced – well, at least since the first time I audibly cussed God out and wasn’t struck dead on the spot.
I think that was an incredibly delicate statement, and dangerous, too. We’ve all met folks – or sadly watched folks – go off the rails by making massive life changes based on an idea of something God said that has no scriptural basis and no good fruit (of the Spirit) to support the initial premises. And yet there is something of an answer to a heart’s conundrum in it. If I want to know Jesus and avoid the scenario posed in Matthew 7, then it behooves me to allow God to search me and know my heart (Psalm 139:23-24).
Ironically, that Psalm 139 reference was part of my daily reading plan. It wasn’t until I looked back at it for the purpose of this essay that I realized it was Psalm 139 – I had read with glazed eyes, letting the words slip into my brain just long enough to get to the highlighted part at the bottom. If you’ve not read Psalm 139 recently, I recommend it. It is one of the most tender, intimate pictures of God’s heart for us. But I am less than 10 days from finishing the whole Bible! So I check it off and wonder why my heart feels so disconnected.
And maybe that’s the thing. Our hearts are meant to be connected to God’s. All the worry and fuss and bother and drama in our lives is an indication that somewhere our hearts don’t quite know we are loved. In His sweet mercy and kindness, our plans don’t succeed. We find ourselves delayed or thwarted in our well-intentioned activities. The cake didn’t rise. I’m two months’ behind in my daily Bible. And we feel the effect of the crisis in our hearts that no encouragement to pray more or read more or go to more church services can touch. How kind of God that He allows scenarios in which we realize our hearts are dying for something real.
So we come back to those scary scriptures. We stop in our tracks, set aside the planner, and tell it like it is: that’s me, Jesus. I’m the one doing good, not knowing You. And I actually want to know You. I don’t want communication, I want connection. I want something real. I want authenticity. And if it means stepping aside from religious activity, so be it. And if it means allowing my theology to be rearranged, that’s fine, too. Ultimately, there’s something that’s just not satisfied, and I’m looking to You to help me out of it. Knowing that Perfect Love casts out all fear, and Perfect Love is actually a Person, so that Person speaks the Word, which is Himself, with His intended inflection, kindness, gentleness, and grace, all the expectation of a negative outcome is driven from every letter on the page.
And He says He knows the plans He has for us, plans to prosper us and not to harm us, plans to give us hope and a future. The we will call upon Him, and He will answer us. We will seek Him and we will find Him when we seek Him with all our hearts. He will be found by us, He declares. (This I know, for the Bible tells me so.)