Valuing What Matters Most

This is a post I’ve been wanting to write for a few weeks now, but worried I couldn’t do the message justice.  In January, my dearly-beloved friend, Calli, called to tell me about a presentation her mother, Leslie Ison, was giving to a group of women at her church. I was so excited to go.

I took my first quilt classes from Leslie about 12 years ago and I have always loved Leslie’s quilts. I love her use of color and fabrics to create works of art. Second, I just love Leslie. She is one of those calm, gentle, and wise souls that you want to be around, if only to absorb that calmness and wisdom by osmosis.  Her thoughts that night were exactly what I needed in the middle of the January ‘blah’s’.

Here is Leslie speaking about life and about her quilts. (sorry, blurry inside photo.) Last summer I summarized Leslie’s advice for quilters that she shared at a trunk show. This time, the audience was mostly non-quilters, and the thoughts were about simplifying life and valuing and enjoying the basic tasks of each day. The hall where she spoke was covered in Leslie’s quilts. I think there were nearly 100. I was so inspired – both visually and emotionally – that I thought I would try and give a few glimpses of the evening, but I definitely won’t do any of it justice.

Leslie shared thoughts from three books – each of which I’ve also read and can personally recommend – Plain and Simple: A Woman’s Journey to the Amish by Sue Bender, Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach, and Gift from the Sea by Ann Morrow Lindbergh – as well as scripture.  I love each of these books and their reminder to put life in perspective and to really examine, and value, what matters most. Freedom and peace come with simplification.

Leslie spoke about Gratitude and the importance of counting our blessings daily in prayer or in a journal of some kind. Gratitude helps us to want less and cherish what we have more. When we want less we start to see how little, not how much, we can get a long with. 
Learn to like what doesn’t cost much: trees, music, simple food, people, work, gardening, fixing things… Learn to keep all your wants simple and not to be controlled by the likes and dislikes of others.
Value your day and live each day to it’s fullest.  As Sue Bender learned from her time with the Amish, they were not trying to hurry through necessities to get to the ‘important things’ – instead, clutter and hurry were replaced with inner calm as all their tasks were important and valued.

Record your story and that of your family. Leslie has done that with many of her quilts.  This quilt was made to record the story of her mother’s family.  Her grandmother was one of 17 (!) children raised on a farm in Wyoming. (See the 17 siblings at the bottom of the quilt?)

Quilts summon “warmth, love & home.” They are an American art form of common women – with simple scraps they created works of art to warm their families, brighten their homes, and sometimes bury their loved ones. Make quilts with significance to you.

Finally, we’d better learn from everything that we go through. Difficult times refine us and have the power to make us stronger human beings.

There you go. I hope those thoughts are encouraging for you like they were for me.

For any skimmers (don’t worry, I’m one myself sometimes) I did not make any of these quilts. They were all made my Leslie Ison.

If you are looking for the patterns for any of these quilts (I get emails often after posts like this) check Geoff’s Mom’s Pattern Company as Leslie has created some of, and sewn many of, their patterns.

Happy Weekend.


  1. says

    Thank you for your post! What a great reminder. A simple life is a happy one when you have faith, family and friends! Value what you have and enjoy the tasks that have been given you. Some days are easier than others, but in everything give thanks! PS: The quilts are amazing :)

  2. says

    This is amazing. Thanks for sharing a little of your story. What an inspirational evening–even for non-quilters. I like the traditional look of all the quilts. What a gifted artist.

  3. says

    You captured the essence of this topic beautifully Amy. <br />This is a gentle nudge that I needed, thank you for taking <br />the time to share your heart, in turn, encouraging ours.<br />… a gentle and quiet spirit … precious in the sight of God.<br />love, Trish

  4. says

    You did fine capturing the Spirit of the meeting. I enjoyed seeing all the quilts. I did a similar display, not as BIG at our Stake Relief Society Meeting a few weeks ago. I only put them up in the Foyer. I&#39;m just now getting my quilts all put back where they go. I only showed 12-14 of my MANY quilts.

  5. says

    Amy this is such a beautiful, inspiring and relevant post. Years ago I read Gift from the Sea, but I really did not absorb it. I recently read Wrestling Prayer by Eric and Lesley Ludy, and was MOST challenged by their message. Because we really should value what matters most. Thanks!

  6. says

    Such a lovely post! I remember reading Sue Bender&#39;s book years ago. It made quite an impression on me – just like these quilts have! Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

  7. says

    Thank you so much for sharing this. 2 things stood out to me, one being keeping your wants simple and not controlled by likes and dislikes of others. That is a big issue I need to work on, and the other being doing tasks that are important and valued. <br />Wonderful post! Thank you!!<br /><br />I am going to link this post on my blog. It needs to be shared.

  8. says

    I wish I had been there. I&#39;ve already got plans to read those books now, especially Sue Bender&#39;s. From what you&#39;ve written, it is exactly what I&#39;m needing to read right now. Thank you for sharing these thoughts. They were much needed.

  9. says

    I especially liked this quote, &quot;…and not to be controlled by the likes and dislikes of others.&quot; !!<br /><br />Leslie&#39;s quilts are amazing, 100 quilts by one person, WOW!

  10. says

    Thank you for your very timely post. I am currently reading &quot;One Thousand Gifts&quot; and this is exactly what it talks about. In the hustle and bustle of life, this is a wonderful concept to focus on.

  11. says

    what a great post, thank you. I was just beginning to get all worked up about the week ahead, but you have managed to make me put it in to perspective a bit better!

  12. says

    Beautiful and thoughtful words accompanied by pictures of beautiful and thoughtful quilts. Thank you for sharing both your evening and the message.

  13. says

    Wow, what a beautiful tribute, beautiful woman, beautiful quilts. I would love to know her. Thank you for sharing her with us, and reminding me that I have so many blessings in my life.

  14. says

    Lovely post. Just finished a bible study on finances but like any study, it wasn&#39;t just about the one thing. It also pointed how much time and money we waste wanting the newest, best, etc and how that time and money could have been invested in things that last. We all need reminders.

  15. says

    I completely agree about seeing the abundance in simplicity. It&#39;s been years that I&#39;ve wanted to be an &quot;exchange student&quot; with the Amish. My husband even gifted me a book about the Amish years ago. Thank you for the reminder to replace hurry/stuff with peace and cherishing the moment.

  16. says

    Wonderful post!!! Life does tend to go by and post like yours reminds us to sit and pray and reflect and regroup. Thank you for your post to remind me of all of the blessings that we have.<br /><br />Thank you and thank you to Leslie!

  17. says

    Thank you!!! I have been thinking about this a lot in the past few days actually. Your post has helped me appreciate even more, all of the blessings in my life and reminded me to keep things simple…

  18. says

    A beautiful post, I read every word and am going to save this and print it out to read often. Thank you for taking the time to write it and share the lovely quilt pictures.

  19. says

    Fantastic post!! Thank you so much for taking photos of the beautiful quilts, and for sharing Leslie&#39;s message with us. I also loved Sarah Ban Breathnach&#39;s book SIMPLE ABUNDANCE and I try to keep a gratitude journal each day.

  20. says

    Thanks for such an inspiring post. While I have heard the things you shared before, it was in a different way, and I needed to hear it again. I was very touched and inspired. Thank you for the pictures of the quilts, too. They truly are beautiful.

  21. says

    Sigh ~ I signed in to check my email before bedtime and saw that you had posted. I thought I&#39;d pop in for a brief moment and see what beautiful creation you had to share. But as I began quickly reading the post, I realized that I simply had to start from the beginning and take time to absorb the beautiful message of your words as well as the beauty of Ms. Ison&#39;s work. Both have touched

  22. says

    I think she would say you did her story a great justice in your retelling! It sounded wonderful, and I am grateful you shared it!<br /><br />Sharon<br />

  23. says

    What an inspiring post! Thank you for sharing all the wonderful pictures too! I am so drawn to her quilts. You was beautifully said, we all need to slow down and really appreciate all that we are given by God around us and not be so concerned about getting more! I so enjoy visiting here, thank you for sharing with all of us!

  24. says

    I have it on good authority that today (March 12) is your birthday. A mother could not be more proud of such a beautiful, talented, smart, caring, wonderful daughter.(I could have mentioned many other great qualities). I am so proud of the great person you are. Thanks for making me a mom and breaking me in rather gently. You have always been a joy and I hope that you have a wonderful day!<br />

  25. says

    This was a fun post to read…I was hoping you were going to let me know about a new &quot;simplify&quot; book…I&#39;ve read these three and love them all. Maybe I should read them again…I keep thinking I will find out about a new one!

  26. says

    What beautiful thoughts to go along with such beautiful quilts! Thank you for sharing these inspirational words with us. It was well worth reading! :)

  27. says

    Amy, this week has been a whirlwind and I just got around to reading my favorite blogs for the first time in a few days. I am so touched by the lovely tribute to my mom. You&#39;ve summarized her talk in such a beautiful way. Thank you. And thank you for being such a wonderful friend. Wishing you a very happy belated birthday too!

  28. says

    Thanks for sharing. What a beautiful legacy she has created. We are loosely using a quilt theme for a birthday party. The quote we are using is this by Elaine L Jack, former RS General President<br />&quot;I like the idea of Relief Society as a quilt of everyone&#39;s contribution coming together in one dramatic whole. Quilts keep people warm, they bring comfort, they showcase talent and a

  29. says

    What a treat to read your previous posts and a couple of others as well about a wonderful quilter and communicator. I really feel inspired! What a memorable post and one I will revisit. Both the ideas and the quilts really resonate with me – and as a relatively new quilt blogger I look forward to following your blog. Thank you for giving a glimpse into what was surely a wonderful evening (it

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