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Thursday
Sep082011

By Small Things

I started knitting a quilt yesterday. It's a genius pattern, and I'm very excited about this project. It's easily portable, a snap to memorize, and uses up tiny scraps of yarn that I have been loath to throw away--but that I don't want hanging around, either. The hexes take about 20 minutes to make, and a golf ball-sized piece of quilt batting goes inside each one just before you bind off the edge. They are so cute and fun!

The designer, Stephanie Dosen, gives this formula for quilt-making success: a) knit the hexes in little snatches of time--while waiting for a movie to start or the school bus to arrive; and b) just keep knitting, and don't be daunted by how many hexes you need for the finished quilt.

And the number is daunting if you choose to look at it that way: for a 4x3' quilt, you need 364 little puffs. I'd like to make the quilt bigger than that, so I'll probably end up making around 600. That's a lot of hexes. If I knit two per day, it will take me the better part of a year to finish the quilt.

But guess what? The year will go by whether I knit the quilt or not. If I waste a few minutes per day instead of knitting a little puff or two, I won't accomplish my goal. But if I use my time well, by mid-summer next year, I'll have something beautiful and warm and lasting to show for my efforts.

The prophet Alma counseled his son "that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise." (Alma 37:6)

Our hours and days stretch before us in a seemingly unlimited vista. We must not make the mistake of squandering them because of their abundance. It is common for people to value things only when they are scarce, but if we can learn to remember how precious our time is even when it seems like we have plenty of it, we'll make better choices.

On the other hand, sometimes it seems like we have only a very small amount of free time--20 minutes before the kids get home, 10 minutes until it's time to leave for church. It's easy to fool ourselves into believing that that's not enough time to accomplish anything significant, so we may as well fritter it away. A quick check of email or Facebook; a game of online Boggle; a browse of the latest "news."

I don't know about you, but I can actually get quite a lot done in 10 minutes. I can do a load of dishes or read a chapter of a book or clean a bathroom or run a mile or write a couple hundred words or take half a power nap.  A wise friend recently counseled me to make the most of those little bits of time that otherwise get wasted, and it's amazing to me how those productive minutes add up when I use them well.

My new mantra is this: "The pain of self-discipline is better than the pain of regret." Whoever came up with that was truly inspired, because make no mistake, there will be pain one way or the other. Today, I choose the immediate and short-lived pain of self-discipline; I've had quite enough of the lasting and bitter pain of regret, thank you very much.

We write books a word at a time. We lose weight (or gain it) an ounce at a time. We raise children a smile or a hug or a listen at a time.  The little things--for good or bad--do make a difference. Though the individual threads of our choices are almost invisible to the eye, they are the fabric that makes up our lives.

Reader Comments (5)

This is a great post, and a timely one for me. I've been frittering away too much time, and I know it.

I also know that I can get a lot of things done in just a few minutes, but I often choose not to. (Still can't read a chapter in 10 minutes, but maybe if I keep trying I'll get there one day...)

September 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLori

Oh Lu, I needed to read these words today. This is just another spot of your wisdom that I need to carry with me always. Thank you so much! There are lots of times right now where I'm sitting waiting and I will do my best to use them wisely.

Be well today and always!

September 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEowyn

I LOVE this topic, and I think of it all the time. You and I think so much alike in this area. And I love your new mantra! I must frame that somewhere that I can see it always!

And I can't wait to see your finished quilt! Already those sherbety colors have me wanting more.

September 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJenna Consolo

Oh how I love this. I want to be assigned a sacrament talk now so I can work this in somehow. Truly lovely.

September 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKimberly

I've never seen a knitted quilt with batting before. Warm and scrumptious!

The metaphor jolted me out of my Internet-induced stupor to write a couple hundred words right that minute. Thank you!

September 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLee Ann

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