Friday, December 9, 2016

On Taking Good Advice

I decided to tackle a sewing project this fall: sewing two tree skirts—one for our girls’ small artificial tree and one for our main family tree.

This is a project I’ve had in mind for a while. Most years I use fabric under our tree. Because—have you seen the price of tree skirts? Sheesh!

I’m also really picky.

I’m not a terribly skilled quilter or seamstress though, so it took a while to find the right pattern.

It also took a bit to get back to it. My brother Dan had borrowed my sewing machine and cutting mat a couple months before he died. I rescued the sewing machine from his house, but I don’t remember what came of the mat. It took a couple years of intermittent interest on my part just to get the machine—a very basic one—working reliably again.

But…I found a pattern I thought I could manage. Bought the fabric. Got a new mat. And got to it.

Cutting and piecing it was the easy part.

Next I had to actually assemble the layers and quilt it.

I stalled there a few days.

But then…perfect timing…Debbie, who works in our bishop’s office and more importantly, owns and runs a quilting store, was coming out to camp with a group.

As you can imagine, I waited for my chance and then asked for a couple of minutes of her time and showed her the pieced top for the girls’ tree skirt.

Debbie read the project and me pretty quickly. I hardly said much before Debbie began explaining how to sequence the layers of fabric and batting. She asked what my machine could do, then gave simple and clear suggestions for how to quilt it. Gave a few pro tips from her own project experience. This was expert level stuff, folks.

Now, you’d think I’d have the good sense to do just what she said.

I asked a couple questions partly due to the fact that the pattern instructions were different for finishing the quilt—and required me to use quilt binding on a hexagon.

How hard could that be?

Pretty darn hard, as it turns out. Which is why Debbie had suggested a different way of finishing the skirts.

And you know what?

I didn’t listen.

I thought, “Well, yeah, but I’m gonna follow the instructions.” (Which is ironic because part of my sewing issues is my frustration following instructions exactly.)

Fortunately I attempted finishing the girls’ tree skirt first.

Which is really good.

Because I mangled it.

I’ve used binding on maybe 4 projects before.

I should never have attempted to do it on the skirt.

Debbie was right.

I managed to finish the girls’ tree skirt. But please, if you’re ever at my house, don’t look at the bottom of it. Please. You will think less of me. ;-)

A couple days later I had a chance to work on the main tree skirt. And do exactly what Debbie told me. Exactly.

And you know what?

Yep. You guessed it.

She was totally right.

I’ve been really struck by this lesson since. Not so much about the binding (though really, I hate quilt binding…I’d forgotten how much I hate it) but the lesson about how we often don’t take the advice we really should. Even when we’re the ones who ask someone for their advice—someone we know who really does know what they’re talking about—we too easily think we still know better. Or we can’t do what is advised.

I read once that only something like 1 in 8 people who are at risk for (or already have) heart issues will follow their doctor’s advice about eating healthier, exercising more, and making other important life changes.

Ain’t that the truth.

I mean, think of it: when was the last time you heard advice from someone (who actually know what they were talking about—not random people who just like to tell you what to do) but didn’t take it? Why was that?

Earlier in ministry, I was talking with more experienced clergy colleagues about some difficult conversations and tense situations—ones which were very exhausting and draining for me but which my attempts to remain present in weren’t changing. One asked me, “Why do you keep allowing yourself to have to keep listening to the same stuff over and over? It doesn’t sound like it’s helping. Just move on.”

It hadn’t occurred to me, I must admit, to just leave it be. And it took time to really take that advice. Still does sometimes. But they were right. I just needed to take their advice.

I am confident there is something in your life you have (or should) sought the advice and guidance of those who have been through a similar situation, someone trained by experience and opportunity to give you the direction you need.


Then do it.

Just do it.

Oh, and don’t try to using binding on a hexagon. Just don’t.

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