Refining, not Defining

There’s a new show that I love titled Forged. Have you seen it? It’s all about forging blades. The first part of the competition the type of blade is announced, materials shown, and design time given. Each of the contestants are given 15 minutes of design time, then two hours to make the blade.
Contestants have a fire box to heat the metal, red hot, making it malleable, allowing them to shape the blade according to their design. The metal is pounded, shaped, heated, hammered, re-shaped, until it is what the smith intends. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t. Fascinatingly the process sometimes reveals or creates, flaws in the metal. While it has the potential for being disastrous, it’s not necessarily a bad thing, this is something that, in the next round, might be fixed. The judges give careful consideration and choose three to move onto the next round of competition.
The second part of the competition the smiths refine the blades (honing them in some way), and add a handle. Next the blades get tested in some way. While it’s kinda not always my favorite part, knowing the blade will work (kill) or not, is a very good thing. This testing gives the judges information to pick the two who will move onto the final round.
In the final round contestants are sent home for one week, to create a specific type of blade, that is then examined, and tested by the judges. We get sneak peeks into this process and get to see the home shops of these smiths. These folks are serious about their craft. They all have some kind of forge and use a variety of tools to make the work they’re doing easier. Some use old school (low to medium technology tools) while some have newer, updated versions.

I admit to a total fascination with the process of smithing. When done well a good piece of equipment is produced. When something is off…some serious problems can develop. Impurities, stress fractures, air pockets all contribute to that potential fragility. I know that I Think of metal as something that is tough, enduring, strong. It is all of those things. And, can still be fragile. Over time, with improper care, mistreatment, the metal can wear away, rust, or fail.

CAM00422So, you can see why Refiner’s Fire is on my mind lately. Along with Oceans this is one of those songs about the process of who we are as God’s well loved children. The process of heating the cold metal to red hot to make it malleable isn’t easy. The metal while it can endure a lot, needs to be treated well and quenched in a way where it will not warp. The process of becoming who we are meant to be isn’t always easy. Sometimes the moments of being heated to become malleable feel downright painful, or like punishment. And sometimes it feels like just enough and I’m done. However, going through the process, becoming malleable actually strengthens the metal, making it harder, more able to do the work intended or needed.

Words like faith, trust, guide, mold, and make come to mind, giving a direction for life.

Oh the quilt making relationship is clear, very clear. Quilt making, like smithing, is a process of creating. Sometimes thing work; sometimes they don’t. Both of these things give us information to move on. The more quilts we make, the more we pay attention to the detail of creating something beautiful, the better our quilts. Even as an experienced quilt maker mistakes happen. Sometimes ones that make me wonder if I’ve learned anything at all about quilt making. Do I know anything about color, tension, cutting, measuring.  . . ? It makes me wonder if I’m listening to the quilt in front of me, under the needle. Oh my brain can go in so many directions with this. Quilt making, the process of quilt making, can help us to embrace our imperfections as a gift from God that give us character and depth and that there is room to grow. The process can help us see that life and faith are not simply one step from here to there. That the process of growth in faith means taking risks and seeing things through to the end. The process of quilt making sometimes leads us to tossing the whole thing in frustration and starting over. This is NOT a bad thing. No. To quote my friend Melly, “sometimes a quilt has taught us everything it can”.

I recently completed a quilt project that left me, unexpectedly, emotionally drained. This happens sometimes. Part of this feels like a letting go. And it is. Part of this feels like a moment in the Refiner’s Fire. Perhaps it is. It is a letting go of expectation on my part. I’m grateful for having completed this project. Maybe one day the joy of that project will return. Maybe not. Either way this is sometimes the experience of our quilt making world.
While the experience has been very challenging I’m seeing something beautiful come from it already. Not in a way I could have expected. This was a gift that led to healing tears.

The experience is refining, not defining, me.

God bless,


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