In the aftermath of a sudden death-defying moment, people often share reports of their "whole life flashing" before their eyes. Memories flood back. Those of regret, those of great joy, the good, the bad, the ugly... all of it. Somehow in what is perceived to be a plausible final moment, our brains make a point to look back on it all. Not what we wish we had done, but the reality of where we've been and what we've faced. And yet, in day to day life, I find my focus often rests on what's next.
Will you try something with me? I'm actually serious. I want you to read this section....then literally close your eyes and picture these things.
1. Try to remember you as a child. I'm talking elementary years. Capture your essence. Watch down on a memory from bird's-eye view. Do you feel free? Frightened?
2. Now think to middle school years. First dance? Braces? Awkward friendships? Who are you here?
3. High school? What made you tick? Who did you dream of becoming? Bottle it up and try to feel it all again.
4. This time, go to the after high school but before any semblance of predictable routine set in. This may be college, or your first job. What did you feel? Who did you think you were? Do you even remember that person?
5. Imagine, if you can, a quick replay of all of the above. A molding together and slow morphing of all of those phases of who you were. For some of you, you can imagine even more phases and how they felt, and what they contributed to your current self.
For me, I always feel like the years long ago are the easiest for me to capture my essence. The closer I get to my current place in life, the harder it seems to distinguish who I was just a few short years before. But there is, no doubt, a continuous shift in who I am and in who I am becoming.
About a year ago a friend of mine introduced me to the art of quilting. I really just wanted to make my 2 boys an heirloom quilt for their bed that would someday (hopefully) have meaning to them. It turns out I found a profound beauty in the process, and have since felt like I always need to have at least one quilt in the works to remind me that the slow piecing together of things results in a beautiful piece of art that isn't just beautiful, but adds value to the place it rests. Each individual piece has its place in the end result.
I've been told that in the Amish quilting community is intentional about leaving at least one mistake in each quilt as a reminder that God alone is perfect. To me, that is beautiful. To know that imperfections don't destroy the piece, but instead just speak a truth about the process. In the redemptive goodness of God, he takes the parts we'd rather do without, and makes them a beautiful way of shaping us. So often we try to hide the less glamorous parts of who we are without realizing we are doing ourselves a disservice. The mistakes, the messy parts, the tragedies, the disappointments....they are all deep and important parts of our formation. When I was in labor (several weeks early) with my second child, there were some complications. For a time, we weren't certain what would come of my life, or of my newborn baby boy's. When things finally calmed down enough, we called our parents to announce Hudson's arrival. My mother-in-law called her mom to let her know of this early surprise. Her response? "I already know. The Lord Woke me this morning and told me to pray for the Doctors; that they would find the cord around the baby's neck." That story in itself is so special to me. But what makes it more special is that months later, I learned more of my prayer-warrior-grandma-in-law's story. She had in fact lost a child of her own in labor during her childbearing years due to cord strangulation. THIS is when the whole messy parts of our life thing was new to me in a whole new way. God took a tragedy in her life, and in a timing that was more beautiful than any of us would have orchestrated, He used it for GOOD. So many years after her own loss, she was able to petition to the Lord for the life of her great grandson.
Part of the art of quilting is finding a way to balance colors and patterns in a harmonious way. Does my great grandmother like the particular patch on her life's quilt that involved the loss of an infant? Certainly not. But the creator of our life, our patchwork quilt, adds bright colors to contrast the dark. He takes pain and counters it with great joy. He took sin and covered it with righteousness. And this. THIS is why I can't stop quilting. At least one reason. Because to me, it represents the process of who we are, where we've been, and who we become as a result of the Lord's great artistry in piecing it together.
Below, I'm posting a photo of a one of the most grueling quilts I've made.It was made out of so many scraps that I thought I'd lose my mind. There were SO may pieces, and I felt like it was never going to all come together. But guess what. It did. It always does. Just when you feel like you are about ready to throw all the scraps into the trash, it comes together and makes total, beautiful sense.