When I first started quilting, I thought the most important part of the process was the time spent at the machine. I looked forward to the moments when I could finally guide the pieces of fabric beneath the presser foot as the needle bobbed through them.
The steps that took place prior to that—the washing of the fabric, ironing it smooth, the careful trimming of the rough edges, the folding and precise cutting required to create the many pieces of my project—felt like annoying obstacles I had to get through before the real sewing took place. When I could, I took shortcuts to streamline the process: cutting faster, less carefully, guessing how many pieces of each color I might need, and how much fabric to buy.
Then one day, as I was using my seam-ripper to tear out some hastily-measured stitches and try again, it occurred to me that maybe I’d had it wrong. Sure, the actual sewing was important, but maybe the steps leading up to the time I sat down at the machine were just as important. I began taking more time to cut the fabric carefully, to measure out how much fabric I needed, to wash and iron the fabric each time, because I knew that in doing so I was laying a foundation for a better end result. I knew that I was taking small steps that didn’t look all that impressive yet, but I knew would come together eventually.
Too often, I’ve found myself taking shortcuts in my prayer life too. I rush through a Hail Mary before bed or speed my way through grace before meals, cutting up my food while I pray. And sometimes that’s all we can do, and that’s ok. But I’m slowly learning that life comes together more clearly when I take the time to be deliberate about my prayer. When I focus on the fabric I’m cutting or the words I’m praying, I’m aware that these help me build something bigger, like a beautiful quilt or a deeper relationship with God.
By taking the time to look at each of the steps of my sewing projects, they became more than just carefully executed means to an end. I actually began to enjoy them: the satisfying sound of the rolling cutter slicing through the fabric, the soft hiss of the iron. The measuring and cutting over and over became meditative rather than annoying. Slowly, I cut up the pieces required to make my quilt. And as I did so, the small piles of fabric laid out before seemed less like a mess and more like progress.
In the same way, I’m learning to piece together what works best for me in my prayer life, how to look at each conversation with God, each moment of reflection, as a blessing in and of itself, trusting that I’m building something beautiful, even if I can’t quite envision it yet.