Archive for February, 2011


I had lunch with a family friend on Saturday, and among Annie’s many creative talents is quilt restoration and repair. As in “the dog took a big bite out of my grandmother’s quilt and it’s ruined, what can you do?” restoration and repair. Or “the fabric in this 150 year old quilt is disintegrating!” restoration and repair. Admittedly, I am no seamstress—my one foray into sewing was buying one of those “anyone can do it!” Simplicity patterns for a dress, only to finally wad up all the pieces of cut up fabric and toss them in the trash. Sewing is not for for the impatient.
Despite being thread-challenged, as I looked at picture after picture of the quilts that Annie had restored, I came to the realization that she didn’t just apply needle, thread, or fabric to those damage quilts; she applied her love to those quilts. And she appreciates every quilt given to her because every quilt has a life, a story of its own. The love that Annie puts into each quilt has resulted in some pretty spectacular and amazing results—thread-bare quilts became strong again, faded fabric was made vibrant, ragged edges were smoothed, ruptures made by dog’s teeth simply vanished as if the quilt has never been harmed.
My favorite quilt story, though, was a quilt out of which, almost 20 years earlier, the owner had cut two large rectangles. Yes, you read correctly. The owner had cut out two large rectangles. I saw the “before” picture. You may pause for moment as you gasp in astonishment that someone would cut out two rectangles from a beautiful, handmade quilt. Apparently, the owner’s intention was good—she wanted to make cushions out of the quilt for the rocker in her then-infant son’s nursery. Now that her son was getting married, she brought the gouged quilt to Annie, wanting her to make something out of it that this mother could wear to her son’s wedding rehearsal.
What Annie did was amazing. The “after” picture was of a beautiful, stylish quilted jacket. The mother of the groom did indeed wear it to the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. It was a lovely connection between her son’s birth and her son’s new life as a married man. It was also evidence of how, when love and creativity meet, something beautiful emerges from something marred or damaged.
Put into the hands of a loving God, marred or damaged lives also can be made into something beautiful. On first glance, some lives—like a quilt munched by a dog–may seem hopeless, but our Creator God can lovingly transform them into flawless fabrics. Other lives—like faded fabric—are given new life and color by our Creator God. And still other lives–lives that have suffered great damage–can be made into something entirely new and useful. Anyone can become a lovely story of possibility and hope. As the Apostle Paul has written, “anyone in Christ is a new creation: everything old has passed away, everything has become new.”


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I am beginning to feel a bit like Thornton W. Burgess (who remembers his animal stories? Anyone? He wrote the Old Mother West Wind series of book, and whole series of little books about animal adventures, The Adventures of Reddy Fox, The Adventures of Sammy Jay, etc. These were books that our grandmother read to our father who in turn read them to us). I have noted that most of what I write is about animals and this reflection will be no different.
One of the features of going to the beach in the winter is that while there are no people, there are plenty of birds. The stretch of beach in front of the house where I stayed was wall-to-wall seabirds. On first glance, they appeared to be all gulls. But on a longer gaze (and with binoculars), this large group of birds was made up of different types of seagulls, terns, turnstones, skimmers and sandpipers. Except for the little sandpipers, all of those birds looked alike–grey and white bodies, orange beaks. In and around those birds were the boat-tailed grackles (ah, they follow me everywhere!) who are dark birds with yellow eyes. It was quite a congregation! One morning I used my binoculars to look more closely at the birds, and instead of seeing a mass of shore birds, I could see that each bird was unique. I’m not saying I could pick them out of a line-up, but I could see that this bird had black flecks on his grey wings, and that bird had spotting under his breastbone, and the beak of another bird was more yellow than orange. These birds didn’t come off the “bird assembly line” or emerge from the bird-copier, identical in shape, size and color. Each bird was a unique creation–a fact which is also true for each shell stretching down the beach, and each star that shone so clear and bright in the sky that night. A fact that is true for humans, even though the birds might glance up from their spot at the water’s edge and murmur among themselves, “those creatures all look alike to me!”

Birds or shells or stars or human beings–it’s good to be reminded that each one of us is unique. It’s good to be reminded that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made,” by a loving God who is with us whether we ascend to heaven, or whether we make our bed in Sheol or whether we “settle at the farthest ends of the seas.” Even there–everywhere!–God’s right hand shall hold us fast.

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