Category Archives: Musings on Life and Beauty

Be Not Troubled

All I did was type the title of this post, and my heart started burning in my chest.  I’m nervous about writing it, because it touches a still-raw nerve from a recent challenge.  It’s more personal than my usual sewing posts, but I feel like I should share it.  So, as I type, I’m whispering aloud “be not troubled.”

Last year we faced a totally unexpected challenge that threatened to completely change our family for many years, it not forever.   For the first time in my life I felt afraid to leave my house, afraid to talk to people, afraid that l would never be OK again.  It was a desperate time.

About a week into that challenge I was scheduled to lead a discussion in our women’s meeting at Church.  My assigned topic was a message titled Be Not Troubled.  I am a Christian.  All my life I have found comfort in the words of Jesus Christ.  I feel in my bones that they are true.  But how could I stand up in front of forty women and say it with conviction while inside I was a complete mess?  I was troubled and I had to get it out of my system in some healthy way.

I got a posterboard and black sharpie and started writing.  The words came slowly at first.  It started with a scripture, then a thought, and another.  Soon my hand couldn’t keep up with all the promises of hope, reassurance, and deliverance.  I wrote and doodled and wrote some more.  Late that night I stood back, the posterboard full and my heart full of light.  I felt light and peace and confidence in God.  The exercise gave me strength to show up at Church to speak with power and conviction.  More importantly, it was my first taste of hope in a long dark storm.  What a gift!

Life as we know it appears to be falling apart around us right now.  The future is uncertain for all.  We’re wading through it here, just like you are.  Something I’m realizing, though, is that God gave me a lot of practice for this in 2019.  He blessed me with a personal storm that changed me.  One thing I learned is that when the storms howl more loudly, I have to be louder about my faith.  I have to speak it more often, hang onto it more tightly, give myself more reminders and give God all the praise.  I learned to praise Him when it was hard to find something praiseworthy.

A year later when life felt bearable again, I still couldn’t part with my poster.  The memory is too powerful and the promises still apply.  I found an inexpensive frame and put it in my living room because I still need the reminder to “be not troubled.”

It’s a great message for right now.  Chaos is everywhere.  Choose faith!  We can remember all the times God has helped us before and trust Him to help us again.  We can remember all the hard things we’ve overcome in the past.  My poster isn’t art, not by a long stretch.  But it was great therapy.  It got my mind off the awfulness of my situation long enough to open a window of hope.

If you need a diversion from all the negative, try writing down positive messages from sources that bring you hope and faith!  Write them large, so they’re big enough to drown out the fear.  Write them boldly so they’re strong enough to fight back the darkness.  And write them on your heart.  That’s where we need them the most.

Hang in there, we’ve got this!
-Jennifer

What Runner Am I?

First of all, I’m not a runner at all.  I think I’d like to be, but right now I’m the lady on an elliptical machine trying to get full range of motion and strength back in her ankle.  It’s not impressive.  Furthermore, I have spent a ridiculous number of hours and dollars over the years watching and funding soccer for my children.  I know soccer, not running.  But this past year brought a new opportunity to me, and I’m thoroughly enjoying it.  My daughter is running cross country and track, and I’m learning more about the sport.  I love watching my kids compete; watching Anna run makes me cry.  I leave every meet asking myself, What runner am I?

A Quaker proverb says, “Thee lift me and I’ll lift thee and we’ll ascend together.”  Occasionally I witness moments in life where this is true, but not usually in athletics.  Until now.

One week my daughter ran a race without her coaches there.  Hungry to improve, she asked me to stand at certain points on the course to report her time and push her to run faster.  I did my best, and on every lap I noticed a girl from another school who stayed with her but never passed her.  Anna pushed herself to a 4th place finish in her race and a new PR.  I was so happy for her!

After the race she told me about the opponent who had run just behind her the entire race.  There were a couple of times on the course when she felt tired and started to slow down a little.  Instead of just passing Anna, this girl said to her, “Oh no you don’t!  You’re faster than that.  You can do this!”  She wouldn’t let Anna fall behind but instead pushed her to keep her pace.  Anna laughed as she described feeling tired and out of breath, but trying to encourage the other runner in return.

As Anna shared this story with me, admiration rose in my heart for an anonymous girl who had not just run well, but encouraged the runners around her do the same.  She helped push both of them to a faster finish.  I stood on the track and listened to other runners describe similar experiences, times when opponents pushed each other to keep going.

It reminded me of another race I watched.  At the back of the group on the second lap there were two girls from the same school.  One wore a knee brace and was struggling, but her teammate held her hand to keep her going.  They ran the race together.

So I ask myself as I watch these races, what runner am I?  In the race of life do I run for myself alone, maneuvering around those who struggle to get ahead?  Do I focus on my own exhaustion and goals so much that I fail to notice the runner who falls back?  With the world in turmoil right now, we’re all running the same race, perhaps more than usual.  Who will we encourage?  What can we do to make sure we all finish?  How will we strengthen those whose hearts and courage may be failing them?

Whether in a race, in quilting, in hard times or on hard days, I want to be the runner who encourages others to keep going.  I want to be the runner who says, “You can do this!  Let’s push and finish together.”  So if you’re not sure what to think or do right now, remember that you’ve always made it through up till now.  We’re durable, and society is too.  Together, we’ve got this, because God’s got this, and he’s got us.  He’s counting on us to help each other.

I Took a Risk and Here’s What I Learned

Making something is both an exhilarating creative endeavor and an exercise in failure.  I’ve experienced both, and I’m sure you have, too.  Creativity is also an incredibly healthy outlet.  It’s healing and in my head I understand it is the process, the experience that matters most.  But in real life?  In real life I sometimes catch myself acting like it’s about perfection.  Last month I pulled out a quilt top that I never quilted because my skills didn’t seem equal to the beauty of the design.  I basted it.  And then I took a risk and here’s what I learned:

I learned that my best effort is just fine.

I did my own free motion quilting on this 88″ square quilt.  It’s big and heavy and the blocks are very large.  I made a lot of mistakes, especially on the straight lines.  Although I did my best to follow the lines in the stripes, it’s wobbly.  But I figured out a thread path for all the orange peel quilting in the hourglass borders and the block centers.  I did it!  And in doing it, I got better.  While I slowly improved and stitched my way around the quilt, I also finished a beautiful quilt.

As I quilted this, I found myself thinking about all the times I told myself I’d ruin it if I tried to quilt it myself.  I realize now that the only thing holding me back was my self-talk.  Of course I made mistakes!  But it still looks great!  And its usefulness is unchanged by its flaws.

It made me wonder about other areas in life where I’m telling myself I’m not good enough.  Honestly, quilting is very low-stakes.  There’s a lot more at risk in other areas of life.  Why hold back with fabric?  Where else am I choosing to play small because I think I’m not enough?  Why bow to fear?  What if I found a way to dismiss those words “I shouldn’t because I’m not good enough” every time they enter my thoughts?

One thing is for sure, I’m going after this false idea in my creative work.  And I’m going to take it to everyday life with more determination.  The things we tell ourselves matter.  If you’re holding back somewhere for fear you’re not good enough, get started.  We all have to experience the gap between beginning and mastery.  But your best effort is just fine.  It’s the only way to improve.  I took a risk and I learned.  You will, too.  And remember: beauty has absolutely NOTHING to do with perfection.

-Jennifer

 

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