Discovering who I am is part of my on going relationship with God, Father, Son & Holy Spirit. There are moments when I am still surprised that part of, a facet of, my identity is as a quilter, and more specifically a free-motion machine quilter who takes thread to stitch over the surface and add to the beauty of a pieced quilt top or stitch out a moon over the mountain, a candle, or a tree. Getting to the point wherein this is possible evokes memories of that quilterly journey including moments of sheer frustration, what if thinking, digging in and going for it, finally understanding tension (whew! that was a hard one!) and how to adjust it, and sitting at my machine stitching for hours on end until the movement of my hands and the machine and the designs in my head all came together over the surface of the quilt top I’m stitching.
A few weeks ago I started listening to Brene Brown’s Unlocking Us podcast with David Eagleman. David talks about neuroscience, essentially how the brain works. There are a few gleanings from this podcast including what we as makers understand as muscle memory is, forgive the poor wording here, our brain on auto-pilot. Where something we’re doing has become such a part of our being that we no longer have to think about the action we’re taking. In our world of quilting this means that when we’re free-motion stitching motifs that we’re comfortable with we just stitch it rather than thinking about where we’re going next. In a sense it become what we see as intuitive.
I have to admit I had this moment where I’m thinking, “Yes! Yes! See I told you there’s no such thing as muscle memory!” However that was in and of itself short lived, however we describe that moment when we enter into the movement of machine quilting with much more ease works. I can tell you that getting to that point where I don’t think about the free-motion quilting is a hard slog. I’m about to enter that hard slog again learning how to long arm quilt. I can assure you it’s not easy being a beginner. There is the I’m-not-getting-this frustration that sets in when what I see in my head is not stitching out on fabric. I was, as we learned the basics last week, happily surprised by what did form well as we were taught concept and practiced. I did learn one new thing this week that I wish I could add to my book!
I had to remind myself that this is a new skill set, over and over again. One of our instructors told me I’d get this as I can doodle both right and left handed. I can rotary cut left handed, I don’t do it frequently as I prefer accuracy however I can show students who are left handed how to measure and cut so they can see what’s happening. I can tell you that as I stitched my shoulders and ears were becoming one body part, I had to think it through.
Thinking it Through
Over the last several months I’ve participated in our parish book study for women. I’ve shared here how it’s allowed me, led me to, flipping the internal script of faith, from what I thought I heard to the depth of what’s there in Scripture. Faith is a practice. For some it does seem to come naturally, however it is, in and of itself, lived practice. Faith, and what flows from it is deliberate action take over and over again, even when we don’t feel like it. We falter along the way, stepping back to review what’s going on in our lives, making changes to conform more closely. We see this over and over again in the telling of the story of Faith history. We read of the great lived Faith, and over generations how it becomes intuitive to the community, and then how the community falters. Part of this faltering has to do with the lack of communicating the Faith, of why we do things, and how we actively participate. It is that lack of communication of the why to the next “generation” that starts the entry into the moments wherein we falter, skin our knees (or much, much worse), and need to return to the Lord, to living, and practicing. It is this personal lack of communication that’s led to some hard times. I gotta give it to God, He really does allow us to turn away from Him, His hand held out for our return.
Somethings, like prayer, I’d love to get to the point where it is auto-pilot. Where there is a steady stream of thanking, praising, expressing gratitude, lifting family and friends who are in need, strangers who are in need, and expressing those things that are painful. This expressing of the hard stuff more than simply Why Lord, but “I can’t get through this on my own” and “I don’t get why you’re permitting this to happen but I want to say yes and it’s really hard right now” and “this bites!” Yeah I’ve actually prayed this last one. I’ve done the ugly crying to God.
The beauty of all of this is we are indeed, “fearfully and wonderfully made”. WE can learn new things, add prayer and new ways of quilting to our daily life. WE can put in the time to hone those skills. We can show up for our faith and show up for our quilting and creating. Quilting and faith are a journey encompassing our whole person from head to toe.
As I get ready to post this I have a question for you: where did you find great beauty this year? Beauty is not always detached from pain. So even if it was a painful experience please feel free to share. And in this I ask for your prayers for a personal intention. I will say that no matter what happens with this intention I know that all will be well.