Advent 2016-7: What’s in our hearts?
Advent Day 16: The Kingdom is near
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” Matthew 3:1-2
I recently finished this piece of creative embroidery that’s been ‘in progress’ for about 18 months. It started as a sampler to try out a number of new textile techniques I’ve been learning (details at the end of the post).
The reason its been in progress for so long is because I couldn’t decide how to finish the edges – should I bind them in a different colour? Or mount the whole thing on another piece of fabric? I couldn’t decide so I lived with it for many months, returning to it often to try to decide what to do.
In the end I decided to just fold over the edges and sew them down without giving it a border.
As I reflected on this journey, I realised that it could be a metaphor for aspects of my life. I have a tendency to want to tie up loose ends, to frame things or define the and file them neatly away. But life isn’t really like that. Life is messy; it has loose ends, things that feel uncomfortable or not quite right; things that aren’t neat around the edges and refuse to be bound neatly.
I find when I can accept this, then forgiveness comes more easily. Forgiveness for myself when I don’t meet my own exacting standards, and forgiveness for others too.
Like my textile piece here, the really interesting parts of us are what is in the middle not what’s on the outside – our hearts, not the outer surface we try to bind up and present neatly to the world. And if we pay too much attention to the outside we can detract from the true heart of who we are. Better just to let our centre shine for itself.
‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.’ Matthew 5:8
For those who are into this kind of thing, here is how the textile piece was created.
This first heart was a piece of bondaweb cut into a heart shape and ironed onto synthetic velvet, sprinkled with embossing powders and then activated with a heat gun. I think there are a few different colour metallic powders but the effect is subtle.
I then edged the heart with pink seed beads and sewed random silver bugle beads on the heart and finished with pink embroidery thread parallel stitches.
The second heart was a ‘bondaweb sandwich’. Bits of metallic threads, fabric and sparkly confetti were trapped between two layers of bondaweb on top of white cotton and with a layer of pink chiffon on top. I used dark pink embroidery thread to blanket stitch the edge and then used silver metallic thread to weave in between this. Seed beads were used in a cluster and then between each blanket stitch and finally a cluster of silver bugle beads finished the heart. The photo doesn’t really show this to its best as in real life it’s very sparkly and iridescent.
The third heart was made from a piece of bondaweb painted with acrylic paints in pinks, purples, silver and bronze. This was then fused to synthetic velvet and stitched through with running stitch in embroidery floss. Bugle beads were stitched on in a rose design and then the heart was edged with chain stitch. Beads were threaded through the chain stitch as well as a contrasting colour thread.
The side pieces were a selection of fabrics appliquéd on using a variety of embroidery stitches and beads.
And finally, around the hearts I used one strand of embroidery thread to create scrolls with running thread and weaving.
The backing piece was from an old silk blouse I didn’t like anymore and the black velvet was an old skirt I made years ago for a Christmas party – I like to repurpose things.
Do not worry
Are you a worrier? I don’t think I am particularly. Some people I know seem to find something to worry about even when there isn’t anything. I know people who can find a downside to even the most positive news.
This isn’t me. In the main I’m an optimist and I’ve found it serves me well.
There are times, however, when there is genuinely something to worry about. If you’re unemployed and struggling to find a job, or you’re self-employed and work has dried up, if you’re suffering ill health and waiting on test results; these are all things that can cause worry.
I find comfort in these words on my journal page …
I know these words are easy to say and that some people might think its a naive attitude to hold. But actually though they present a simplistic view, its also the truth. Worry in itself is a destructive emotion that serves no positive purpose. Sometimes its almost as if we worry as a talisman against anything bad happening. If we worry about it then it won’t happen, but if we don’t think about it, it might sneak up on us and take us by surprise!
When we put it like this we see how ridiculous it is to worry. I’m not suggesting we ignore difficult situations, but we need to decide if there is anything constructive we can do to improve the situation and if there is, then we can take positive action.
If there isn’t anything we can do (like when awaiting test results), we need to let go, put the situation in God’s hands and trust in him. He will never forsake us. No matter what difficulties we go through, he is there longing to walk with us, giving us his strength to draw on.
So worry really is pointless. Constructive concern that leads to action is helpful. And prayer will help us to rise above those situations that are out of our control and enable us to put worry aside and simply trust.
Making the journal page
The background was painted with watercolour washes in two different yellows and a blue (the pink you see in the middle leaked through from another page – I never worry about this happening as I think its a good metaphor for the fact that life is messy, not perfect!). After it dried I cut the bird shape, wings and flowers from an old paperback novel. These were then coloured with pencils and outlined in black fineliner.
After the verse was written I used a small starflower stamp and blue ink to give some texture to the background and used the ink pad to edge the whole piece. Finally I used a white liner to edge the birds and flowers and make them stand out.
The idea was to portray the loveliness of the world we live in and capture the essence of the message that if God provides for birds and flowers and other creatures, then how much more will he provide for us.