Quilted

I’m cleaning out again. This time, I started with my linen closet…errr, closets (Plural. Eye rolls..Plural…again.) I love linens. There’s something about thread counts and coziness, colors and cleanliness that makes me smile.

As I’ve sorted through my collection of goodies, I unearthed a stack of older quilts. Several of them were purchased from various antique dealers across the South, a couple were gifts, and a few more were created by my maternal grandmother and one of her sisters. Those are the best!

I have a stack of more modern quilts that are larger and made to fit up to a king-sized mattress. While I find them to be useful and comfortable, my favorites are those smaller ones that are pieced together from colorful bits of cloth that served a different purpose and used to cover up people I know and love. Seeing a family quilt where the makers can tell a history of who wore what and when…well now, that is special.

There is the one with the big multi-colored corduroy squares made by my grandmother that wrapped me up and kept me warm on more high school football/band trips than I can count. It went with me on through college and was one of the first things I spread over that mattress on the floor in my first–and mostly empty!–apartment after grad school. Though it is ragged along the edges and in need of repair now, it is far more valuable to me than any of the others.

IMG_20190514_120636948Another one, made by one of my grandmother’s sisters, shows off the double wedding ring pattern and is full of bright, colorful rings on a cream background with scalloped edges. Aunt Pearl did this as one of her last quilts and I consider it a prized possession even though she missed a stitch or two due to failing eyesight. I love this quilt because she refused to quit doing what she loved just because it became more difficult. It now adorns the foot of a guest room bed so I can see and enjoy it regularly.

There’s something about resting under a handmade-with-love or out-of-necessity quilt that the store-bought and machine-made ones just can’t provide. There’s the love that came from the making along with the love that came from my daddy as he purchased another Aunt Pearl quilt with little Holly Hobby-like silhouettes because it reminded him of me and a Girl Scout project I did in elementary school. I also have a couple made by a beloved cousin and a treasured friend.

There’s the one my grandmother made out of scraps from clothing worn by all my aunts and uncles when they were growing up. I can’t tell you who wore what patch, but she could have… probably because she made those clothes for them, as well.

As I’ve sorted through these beauties I’ve begun to sharpen my focus. I’ll be keeping the love and passing along some of those I just purchased because something about them caught my eye…even the handmade ones from someone else’s family that ended up in the antique stores.

IMG_20190514_120846943Of those that are departing, there is one that reminds me a little of what my life looks like right now. While one side is a smooth and somewhat faded floral, the other side shows a definite pattern. Unfortunately, it looks like it might have been someone’s (or even several someones!) first shot at quilting. The pattern edges aren’t clean and clear. The points don’t always join where they’re supposed to join. It’s what I’d call a life lesson quilt–more than a little messy, but still capable of getting the job done. I still like it, but I think it’s time for the lesson to be passed along…now that I’ve been reminded to keep doing what I can for the people I love even when it gets hard and looks messy on the surface. Despite my perfectionistic tendencies and desires to be in charge of the results, God will have the job of sorting the outcome. I just need to keep covering up my people with love…and lots and lots of prayer.

Wishing all of us a day pieced together with love…even if it looks a little wonky or in need of some repairs!

Grace and peace!

 

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small packages and bigger baggage

“When a man is wrapped up in himself, he makes a pretty small package.” ~John Ruskin 

John Ruskin may not have mentioned this to anyone, but his quote can also be applied to women. I know this to be true by way of recent personal experience.

I walked into a local grocery store last week just to hear my name called out in a loud and cheerful greeting. It’s the kind of thing that can happen when you live in the “country” and shop at small-town grocery stores. People get to know you. They may even go to church with you on occasion. You see them in the local bank and you might even have them on your personal prayer list from time to time…or show up on theirs. For absolutely certain, you have to know that you will not be getting away with buying your favorite ice cream on the sly, so just you need to just go ahead and own that right up front. Also, when you supposedly write a blog and then DON’T write for awhile, well, you can expect to get called on that, too. Ask me how I know. (insert the chagrined shrug emoji here…and then go ahead and smile, because it just happens that way sometimes, doesn’t it, Cheryl?! LOL) Yes, my name was quickly followed up with an inquiry about when I planned to publish my next blog. I gave a vague little smile and told Cheryl that I was “processing.” Until that moment I hadn’t given blogging much thought because I’ve been in mourning.

No, I didn’t lose anyone close to me. I lost a thing, …a dream, …some expectations, and the ability to go and do my own thing while expecting that to continue somewhat indefinitely. It sounds selfish when I write it out like that, but it’s been pretty real for me. To be perfectly honest, I’ve been more than a little bit sad about all that loss, so I’ve been wrapped up in myself more than a little bit as I’ve carried this heavier baggage down the road without an end in sight…and I needed some space before I could write about it. Some days are, of course, better than others. Grief is never linear, but dealing with it head-on is a lot healthier than ignoring it and hoping it will go away on its own.

This past year, after our busiest and most successful year ever, we decided to close our business. We’ve joked about going out on a high note, but our spirits have felt anything but high about it. The decision caught even us off guard though it was our decision to make. I asked us (my husband and I) a question that had only one answer, so our decision was both made and then made official for the IRS in less than two hours. The year 2018 was a great one for our little business, but keeping it going and growing took a toll. It meant that we didn’t see family or friends very much. It meant we missed a lot of church and quite a few special events that we’ve always enjoyed participating in or seeing. It meant that we spent almost every waking moment for the months of the “show seasons” moving forward with intense focus. We worked hard almost all the time and when we weren’t working hard, we were working out ways to work more efficiently so we could fit more work into our already crowded work schedules. It didn’t leave us much time for anything else, including planned visits and keeping up with loved ones, much less for emergencies…

Family. You know they’ll love you anyway and NObody ever sits and thinks, “Well, YES, I am choosing my work over my family and friends and I am absolutely fine with that!” At least, we didn’t. We missed out on quite a bit and we knew it, but we kept moving forward with even bigger plans for 2019.

God had other plans.

Family health issues are a fact of life as we get older. It happens to everyone. Even as we worked and planned for our next season, we noticed some parental age-related changes that cropped up sporadically, at first, and then with greater frequency and severity. It became obvious that they would become increasingly difficult to manage. My folks were fine, but we have other family obligations that began to make it more and more difficult to commit to a show schedule, increase our time with loved ones, and still be available to participate in family care. The topper came when we sat in our tax lady’s office and saw the result of our great year and knew that no matter how successful we made our business, it would never be enough to justify our absence in the lives of the people we love. We have a larger obligation–and desire!–to be successful in being part of our families…for the sake of those who are well and for those who are not.

The loss of our business hurt. There are days when it still hurts for both of us. On those days I have to remind myself of all of the reasons we made the decision to close and remember that I am not alone in this battle. I’ve actually had more help with that than I anticipated. In addition to my fabulous husband, the God of All Comfort keeps showing up to help me. Without exception, when I become pitiful and focused on my own loss, He draws near and shows me what I’ve gained: ease of schedule, ease of pressure to perform/create just for the pleasing of others, increased opportunities to spend time with and care for those we love, and an unexpected loosening of some invisible bands of pressure that had grown to impede my breathing without my even being aware of them.

We’ve also been released–and given some time!–to focus on our marriage. As a result, we’ve begun to make more opportunities for laughter and fun. Our list of positives continues to grow and we are determined to keep finding and celebrating those gifts! We’re resting in the idea that God always has a plan that is for our good (Jeremiah 29:11)–even when it doesn’t always FEEL good to us and we can’t quite see the end result or enjoy all of the pathway to it.

Knowing all I do about the truth of that last sentence, it is still taking some time to process the grief over the loss of our business. It’s also taking some time to process the grief and loss that comes from changing family roles and responsibilities. The increasing need to “parent” a parent takes some getting used to…for all of us. It’s still early days yet on some of these fronts, but I’m really ready to stop being a small package with big baggage and get back to seeing what God has for me to learn in all of these changes. As with many other life lessons, this is a process and I have to choose it deliberately on a daily basis.

The good news for now is that I’m choosing to move forward and I’m getting my focus back where it belongs. I’m trying to unwrap all these new-to-me-again gifts I’ve been missing out on for awhile and celebrate THAT even as I attempt to process the grief. Here’s to the gifts from a God so big that He can deliver delight even from the ashes of despair.

Be glorified in who You lead us to be, Father, as we seek to become even more wrapped up in You.

Grace and Peace, dear friends. Grace and peace. This, too, is a process.