Not without design does God make the music of our lives. John Ruskin
Saver of Things
On December 31, 2022, I finished up the last stitch on an heirloom quilt I’ve worked on since April 2020 during the pandemic shutdown. It is for our first grandchild.
The heirloom fabric came from old clothes, linens, and other scrap material I saved, thinking someday I’d do something with the material. I had old bedsheets from my and Ron’s childhood bedrooms; pillowcases from my Italian immigrant grandma; clothes from three of our four parents who have died; shirts from my and Ron’s high school days; and scads of childhood clothes from my kids.
I’m a saver of Important Things. Someday things, and Storykeeper Things.
I’m also someone who’s dreamed of being a grandma since childhood. Childhood told me I never entirely belonged to modern culture. I’ve since learned names for people like me; old soul, an antiquary, perhaps sentimental. To a child, teen, and modern mom, my narrative said I was weird.
I’ve always been more comfortable at home in old houses, museums, antique shops, and history. Teaching U.S. History was a highlight of my professional life, as was selling antiques years ago. Both of these things seem like a distant memory from my speaker-author-therapist life. But they weren’t that long ago. Those experiences shaped me and are part of me, just like the people whose shirts and pants I’ve tucked away as Someday Things and my children whose Osh Kosh overalls I’ve packed away as Storykeeper Things.
Oh, the stories and memories this mama has attached to them.
Finishing What You Start
I’m a virgin quilter, though I collect old quilts myself. I wonder about the stories old quilts hold and the women who pieced, pinned, and threaded them to keep their families warm. My favorite antique quilt top is made up of two-inch feed-sack squares. It was made during the 1930s or 1940s of necessity.
So I did what these heroines did, hand stitching each quilt square together for my grandson. I didn’t know it would take
forever, several hours. When the top of the quilt was finished, I needed a quilt frame in which to put it. I didn’t know these are hard to purchase because, in my Amish and Mennonite community, most Mennonite churches and older women have quilt frames. I was unable to purchase any new ones (I guess most quilters use fancy machines now).
I bought an old quilt frame from an older lady in our community, and off to quilting I went. This was challenging as a speaker-writer-school counselor-mom-and-grandma. The unfinished quilt remained in the frame for most of 2022. With a new book manuscript due at the end of the summer, I committed to finish the quilt by December 31, 2022.
And on that day, at 1:00 am, the last stitch was complete.
Finishing the quilt was a sacred experience. I was tearful the next day because of what the process had done for me. To my husband and kids, it’s the first of many quilts for grandchildren (two are waiting in the wing). To others, especially my first grandson, it is a quilt his Mimi made that he’ll take to his own house someday. It was a pretty craft to those with whom I shared it on social media.
But It was a work between God and me. The quilt symbolized the end of three years full of significant change; a pandemic, my father’s covid-related death, my husband’s near-fatal accident, and an empty nest. It also converged various people and segments of my life, beginning with me as a young bride who took fabric from her mom’s sewing room and started saving Someday Things. It included experiences as a mom who saved bins full of outgrown baby clothes and clothes from each parent who died with smells and memories I never want to forget.
I thought the quilt was for my grandson. All the time, God stitched something inside of me together.
Have you ever felt like you don’t know the younger you, who lived a life that’s now a distant memory?
For years I’ve felt disjointed, like phases of my life were far apart. The only common thing between them was the person living it. My segments included:
- that teen who never entirely belonged and coped with an eating disorder.
- the Stay-at-home mom who loved everything about childhood and homemaking but made many mistakes.
- The History and Home Ec teacher, whose classroom was her sacred space
- the graduate school, therapist, speaker, and author, disconnected from these former lives
- the mom who raised teens and young adults, now fully grown.
God sewed memories of the child me, the young mom me, and now grandma me together. The various roles no longer stand alone. The memories are no longer apart from one another. They are finally pieced into one space.
To my hands, that space is a quilt.
To my mind, that space is my soul.
Finishing the quilt was an ending. Not just of a project, but of an era. Of becoming a woman, of raising kids, of striving and searching. Completing the quilt was like a homecoming, journeying back to Important Places in my life with people who made my husband and I who we are. It’s a tangible marker of histories and eras lived by grandparents and parents who shaped us.
With each stitch were prayers that God would do Important Things in our grandson’s life and the life of his family, and their families.
You probably will not sew a quilt as I did, but God desires to piece together parts of your life that seem disjointed, discarded, and fragmented. He desires to bring together the person you, too, are becoming.
Only two entities are present throughout your life; you and God. You walk your path together. Nothing is wasted. All of it is used to make you who you are. Some chapters are continuations of another. Some are endings. Others are new beginnings.
May Psalm 90 be a prayer over you, no matter what is before you. This Psalm has been powerful to me the last three years.
May God will show His glory to you and your children.
May His beauty rest upon you, and may He establish the work of your hands:
- Raising kids.
- Working for an honest wage.
- Going to school.
- Stepping out in a new role.
- Healing your past.
- Starting something new.
God’s handiwork is all over your life. May you come home to Him as I did.
Not decades from now, but at the end of every day.
Let Your work appear to Your servants,
And Your glory to their children.
And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us,
And establish the work of our hands for us;
Yes, establish the work of our hands.