Friday, October 1, 2010

A quilting legacy

I finished a quilt this afternoon. Changed the sheets and put in on our king-sized bed.  Before I climb under it tonight, though, I'll place an old double-sized quilt on my half of the bed.  Beve and I have different temperatures so I've spent my married life sleeping on my half of the bed under more covers than the giant heater over there.  I'm thankful for the old quilts--the multicolored butterflies on a white background is my personal favorite--that my maternal grandmother made through out the course of her life.  Quilts--heirlooms though they might be--are for using, warm as any light blanket we own and soft to the touch of my ultra-sensitive skin, even with the perfect tiny stitches.  I imagine Grandmom sitting beside a radio, holding fabric in her hands, stitching as she listens for news that might tell her something of her beloved Tommy, so far away at sea. When I spread my fingers across the butterflies, I wonder which came from my mother's dresses as a child, and which were the house-dresses my grandmother always wore.  There was little money to spare so even clothes had to work for their keep.  During the depression, while her husband was out at sea, Grandmom took in laundry for people, did sewing for them to help make the money last until the next ship (and pay) came in.  So maybe some of the fabrics on all the quilts my siblings and I all slept once belonged to some woman in Brooklyn, NY or Los Angeles.

I like imagining such things.  I like imagining Grandmom finishing a butterfly quilt and putting it on her daughter's bed. My mother grew up without roots to a place, because the navy moved them so often.  So to my mother, home simply meant wherever her mother was.  My grandmother and her quilts, the crocheted bedspreads and table-linens.  The fancy cut-work doilies.  Yep, my Kansas farmgirl grandmother made all those things. 

Me?  I just sew.  Just learned to quilt about 18 months ago.  But I like to think I'm walking in her footsteps when I sit down at my machine.  When I listen to NPR on the radio, just as she listened to Amos and Andy, I sense that she's my heritage. As I cut my fabric and plan out my next project, I just might be the future she was imagining when she crocheted that extra-large bedspread that fits perfectly on our king-sized bed.  I'm my grandmother's legacy.

Legacies.  That's what I'm thinking about today. The women who fed me when I was barely more than an embryo of faith. And the girls (now women) I gave milk to when I was just barely chewing meat myself.  Some of those girls I was pretty sure would live lives worthy of the gospel.  In fact, I did little more than provide what they were already hungry for. But others were harder nuts to crack.  I couldn't figure out whether their eyes were open or their hearts or if they were simply showing up for the free food and games.  But every now and then I've had the privilege of hearing about one of those girls, now women in their late forties.  Just this spring, I talked to one of the hungry ones.  And she asked me if I remembered one of her friends, a woman I'd call reluctant.  A girl who'd just shown up, and I almost never knew whether any of it had taken.  She was perhaps physically the most beautiful girl I've ever seen, stuck in a backwater town, thinking she was in love with a wild boy.  I'm not making this up, even though it sounds like a cheap novel.  She really was just that beautiful.  But now...

Now she loves Jesus.  And she credits Young Life with leading her to Christ.  Wow.  We never thought we made a dent in her life.  But that's my point.  We can't know what our legacy will be.  We lay out our fabric, sew it up, make the quilt of faith but we don't know where it will land finally.

My younger daughter, SK, lives with four women who are Young Life leaders.  I'm thinking of them tonight as I write this.  By the nature of the beast--the beast being college lasting only four or five years--their ministry to their kids will end next spring.  And it's possible that none of SK's roommates will see giant changes in those they've cared for over the last four years.  But I'm here to tell them, to all the thems in this particular situation, that nothing is wasted.  God knows what pieces of the quilt He's been working on in these last four years.  He knows what their legacies will be.  Someday, I believe, SK's housemates will return to Spokane for some reunion or something, and one of those girls, now a woman, will be in ministry because of these Young Life leaders.  I've seen it over and over.  I've lived it myself.  Trust it. Trust God. It's all about legacy.

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