Quilted With Love

Our mother passed away six years ago, just before Mother’s Day.  I wrote this blog a few years before her death and so today wanted to post it again in honor and remembrance of this amazing woman that we were blessed to call Mom. 
Some of my earliest memories of my mother revolve around her amazing skills as a seamstress.   I remember being very young and seeing Mom sitting at her sewing machine, turning out something beautiful and seemingly perfect from all sorts of fabrics.  She kept us girls busy in those early years while she sewed by giving us pieces of felt in various colors.  From this soft felt we fashioned  clothes for our little troll dolls, cutting and fitting each ugly troll as if it was a priceless and beautiful doll.  Mom provided glitter and sequins and odd buttons for us to glue onto our awkward handiwork.  We stayed busy for hours laboring over our important creations.  I don’t remember all the mess we must have made, but I do remember laboring over our little troll dolls while Mom labored over her more important sewing jobs.   Mom made small, meticulous Barbie doll ensembles which she sold in a local craft store, and also made some for us to keep.  Yet her most loving works of art were the countless pieces of clothing she made for her girls to wear.
 
Every Easter we had new Easter dresses.  I especially remember the Easter that she made all of us girls pink gingham dresses – and then made one for herself, as well.  I thought it was wonderful to not only match my sisters, but to also be dressed like my mother!   I remember the trips to Penny’s in Bluefield, the bigger town that was near our hometown of Princeton.  I loved the escalator ride down to the bottom floor, where we would choose patterns and fabrics and buttons for our new clothes.  Never did we go to the ready-made clothes upstairs or enter a dressing room.  Our clothing was there amongst the bolts of fabric, waiting to be matched to patterns and later sewn into pretty dresses and jackets and blouses.  I do believe that I took the longest to select the fabric to match the patterns as I had such a difficult time seeing the finished product in my head.  I would stand there, rubbing the fabric between my fingers, trying to visualize a finished product that somehow wasn’t materializing in my mind.  I can imagine Mom’s frustration as I lingered there trying to make this important decision………..as well as the rolling eyes of my sisters who had finished this process long before I did.
 
Mom worked full-time after we were all in school, yet still managed to sew all of our clothes.  She was a natural at this art, yes, but it still took lots of time.  She would sew late into the night, her dedication undeterred by her tiredness.  I never gave enough thought to how tiring this effort must have been to her until I had children of my own.  How did she do it all?  I have no idea, really, but she did.  Her work was not only beautiful with matching plaids and perfect zippers and flawless fit, but each stitch was filled with a love that wasn’t recognized by us until years later. 
 
One of my most special memories was of the year when we were teenagers, and Mom made us skirts for Christmas.  I don’t know how many skirts she made, but there were quite a few.  Then she not only began looking for matching sweaters to wear with each skirt, but matching knee socks as well.  She did not give up this quest for the correct colors of sweaters and socks until each skirt had what it needed to make it a perfect ensemble.  We learned about this later, from Dad, who accompanied her on many of these trips.
 
Dad, who was color blind and absolutely no help when it came to matching colors of anything, would patiently take Mom on many of these shopping trips.  I can still see him standing silently on the sidelines in the fabric stores, hands behind his back and a sweet smile on his face.  He never rushed Mom or any of us, but stood there until we had come to the point of methodically selecting every button and every spool of thread.  I can still hear him say, “Did you know that there are 53 light bulbs in this ceiling?”  Or, “Did you know that there are 271 zippers in that display?”  Dear, sweet Dad!
 
John and Jeanie’s Quilt

When Mom and Dad both retired, Mom only continued her sewing.  She had sewn for her children, for grandchildren, for friends, for the Crisis Pregnancy Center, and who knows what else.  Upon retirement, she decided to take up quilting.  Of course, she was a natural at this skill.  She practiced by making her and Dad a lovely quilt, and then took up the goal of making each of us five children and spouses a quilt.  These gorgeous works of art were each sewn entirely by hand with no sewing machine used.  She had us each pick our pattern and our colors – there I went again, having to make this difficult visual choice!  Mom never wasted a minute in any day, and before long she was completing our individual, personal, gorgeous quilts.  Dad took her to countless stores and quilt shops, patiently waiting over and over again as she selected just the right fabrics.  Each stitch was a labor of love……….each completed quilt a perfect picture of her devotion to her children.  I keep my quilt hanging in our kitchen area so that we can see it every day and enjoy its beauty, and bask in the warm memories that it evokes. 

 
Mom made many, many quilts during the next few years.  She made quilts for missionaries; she made a special quilt for a dear friend who had no mother of her own to make her one; she made a quilt for the Prophet’s Chamber at church where missionaries 
stayed when visiting; and she made a memory quilt that has special fabrics and mementos from each of us children and our children.
 
 
Bob and Jan’s Quilt
Jimmy and Kathryn’s Quilt

Mom has Alzheimer’s now and lives in an assisted living center.  Tomorrow she will celebrate her 86th birthday.  Dad knew that Mom was showing distressing signs of forgetfulness before he passed away nearly four years ago, and he worried so about her.  He would be happy with her living arrangement now and with how well cared for she is.  She doesn’t sew at all now.  She’s even forgotten how to put her jigsaw puzzles together that she loved so much.  Sometimes she doesn’t remember all of our names, and definitely not the names of all the grandchildren and great-grands.   But she is sweet and she is happy and she still seeks to serve others.

Bob and Mary Beth’s Quilt
Gary and Patty’s Quilt

And just as our keepsake quilts will always be an heirloom to pass down to our children, even more so are the pieces of our lives that she shaped and fashioned together with her tireless love and effort.  She took care of us, providing the atmosphere of a happy and warm home to treasure as she sewed and cooked and played and laughed.  She made sure that we had family devotions every morning before school because Dad was at work and so it was up to her.  She took us to church when Dad was working late, and didn’t just drop us off – she was there, too, worshipping and serving.  She  showed us how to love and how to work and how to pray and how to laugh and how to persevere through hard times.  She exemplified great care in how she took care of her mother for 14 years, as well as her mother-in-law for part of that time.  And she loved Dad, totally.  She never left his side, especially for the eight years that he fought cancer.  Even when they no longer could share their bed they had slept in together for 59 years, she slept right beside his hospital bed, her arm and hand resting on him between the bed rails. 

These traits of our mother are the stitches that are sewn into our very being.  The pieces of our lives were begun by her, thought-out and cut, measured and pieced, day by day.  As the years marched on, the shapes of our lives began to unfold.  The beauty of the various patterns began to be seen.  These are the treasures that are eternal.  These are the heirlooms that have more value than any quilt will ever possess.  And while our mother may not remember much anymore about the details of the past or the present, we have the evidence in our lives of her love and her faith…………a beautiful quilt of a life well lived.

Lessons From the Carrot Patch

One of my faves from a few years back.

He Said What?!

Gary and I were doing lots of outdoor work one autumn weekend, partly because it was our neighborhood clean-up time and partly because the coming winter was urging us to ready our gardens before the cold weather hit. On Saturday I had been clipping and yanking out the dead growth in the flower beds. There was plenty to do and the piles were filling up our big outdoor trash can quickly. I had decided that if I had time I should visit the vegetable garden to see what I could pull up there. It was certainly time to be done with it, tidy it up for winter, and begin dreaming of a hopefully better vegetable season next year.


For several days I had been thinking about what I would try to clean up over the weekend and it hit me that I hadn’t even checked the status of our carrot…

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HALT!!

Walking into Wal-Mart with Aaron is like opening a box of Cracker Jacks.  You never know what the surprise inside will be. 

I sure do have some Wal-Mart stories.  Like the Valentine nightie story.  Maybe I should share that one yet again since we’re in that time of the year.  And yes, Aaron has seen some sexy little lingerie hanging in our local Wal-Mart, but I gave him THE look and walked briskly away with him trailing behind before he could say more than:

“MOM!!  LOOK!!  BRAS!!”

I made a mad dash for the electronics section then since I knew Aaron would follow me there…because as much as he was fascinated with those BRAS, he does love those shelves full of games and movies. 

I almost always give Aaron a few instructions as we walk into Wal-Mart, especially if he wants to branch off on his own…heading to electronics, of course.  Or the snack aisle.

Aaron, don’t run.

Aaron, don’t make funny noises…and yes, that includes farting noises.

Aaron, don’t ask the Wal-Mart associate for help a dozen times.

Aaron, if you do ask the Wal-Mart associate for help, don’t begin by saying, “HEY!!!”

Aaron, not everyone wearing blue is a Wal-Mart associate.  Please don’t ask multiple random people for help.

There are a few other guidelines that I wish I had given Aaron in the past, but the past is in the past, right? 

Aaron, please don’t pull a box of cereal out of the lower row of that huge cereal display at the end of the aisle. 

Aaron, please don’t make the fox whistle, especially when there are multiple couples nearby…including men with big muscles, you know.

Aaron, please don’t keep flashing the peace sign at every security camera you see.

And this one especially:

Aaron, please don’t sing the last line of the last song you heard in the van.   Repeating “Man!!  I feel like a woman!!” over and over was a bit much for me. 

This past Friday, Aaron and I made our weekly Wal-Mart excursion and of course Aaron wanted to venture off in his own direction.  Soon, I saw him up ahead in the snack aisle.  He saw me coming and immediately he did this:

He just held his arm out there for the world to see…and they did. 

He did NOT want to be interrupted in his private quest for the best and the most snacks he could round up without Mom’s interference and unwanted input. 

Oh Aaron, you do make me laugh!

And at least you weren’t singing or whistling!!

Is God Gone?

The heaviness in my soul these past few weeks has been palpable.  As a Christian it’s been very difficult to see Biblical principles pushed aside in our country while rank sin is legislated with the stroke of a powerful pen.  Then if we don’t jump on board with this agenda, we are haters and racists and out of touch.  The changes just in two weeks are almost too much to comprehend. 

As I continue reading through the book of Numbers, I came to chapter 20.  Moses, Aaron, and Eleazar climbed Mount Hor while the children of Israel, full of foreboding, waited down below.  On the mountain, Aaron’s priestly garments were removed and given to his son, Eleazar.  Then Aaron died there on the mountain. 

The people’s priest was gone.  Yet God had provided His man, Eleazar, to continue His work.  God’s pledge to stay with His people and to accomplish His plan was being perpetuated. 

God did not forget His promise.  His sovereign purpose for His people would be carried out, even though Aaron had now died.

This simple phrase written by Raymond Brown jumped off the page to me in the early morning as I read this story in Numbers: 

“ONLY AARON HAD LEFT THEM, NOT GOD.”

What an amazingly simple yet profound comfort this truth has been to me during these sad and hard days.  We feel bereft and abandoned, scared of what the future holds for us as believers in this culture, and angry at the sin that we see being promoted by our leaders. 

There were many true followers of Christ in the past administration.  Open Bibles were commonly seen on their desks.  Prayer, hymn singing, and Bible studies were routine in the White House.  Now that is all gone, and our spirits are stirred within us at the open endorsement of sin that we are witnessing every day…some of which we will be paying for with our tax dollars.  Open sin instead of open Bibles.

BUT…God is NOT gone.  God is still accomplishing His perfect plan.  He is with His people, each of us, as we wake up each day and seek to live godly lives in a most ungodly culture. 

Let’s take each day and each moment with that thought in our minds and hearts.  God is not gone!  He is here with His people just like always, in our homes and our work and with His Church. 

God is not gone!  He is with us in our disappointments and our pain, our sickness and our fear, our good news and our bad news.

God continues His work, no matter our circumstances. 

So let’s be encouraged to be about His work…to be strong and courageous…to be voices of love and conviction…to share the gospel…and to be bright lights in this dark world.

From Bliss to Brokenness

Today’s answers to prayers don’t guarantee a carefree tomorrow.

He Said What?!

On Monday, November 6, of last year…..yes, 2017 is – as of today – LAST year!!  Anyway, on that day last year our washing machine loudly died.  I mean, the noises coming from the bathroom/laundry room were downright scary.  I remember that date because two days later, November 8, was Aaron’s birthday.  Gary and I met at Lowe’s after he got off work on Tuesday night, where we found our dream machine, got it ordered, and were told that delivery would be on Thursday.

Thursday was the day we were having two of Aaron’s favorite friends over for a birthday supper, so I knew I would be home most of the day as I got things ready.  It was also the day that Aaron woke up in a very wet bed, so it became the day of a huge mound of wet bedding piled near our dead washing machine, waiting…

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Don’t You Remember?

One of the many side effects of Aaron’s seizures and even of some of his seizure meds is memory loss.  It makes me sad to see it sometimes. 

Gary and I took Aaron out to eat the other day.  While eating, I got a text saying that his day group would be re-opening on Monday.  I was sharing with Aaron the names of some of his friends that he would get to see again.  At the mention of one of his friends, Aaron’s face was blank. 

I was surprised because just last week Aaron had facetimed with her.  Yet his forgetfulness was genuine just a short time later. 

As I get older (and older and older 😊), I find myself often saying, “Remember when…?”  Gary and I do this at times, remembering events and situations of the past, sometimes with joy and at other times with regret.

There is an incident recorded in the book of Numbers…the book I am now studying…that has impacted me this week and which I want to, well, remember. 

The children of Israel had traveled for a year in the wilderness.  In chapter 11, we find them complaining about their lack of good food.  They remembered all the variety of foods in Egypt, forgetting their horrible life they lived there as they ate that food.

They begged for meat, so God told Moses that He would give them meat.  Then Moses seemed to have memory loss as he questioned just how on earth God would be able to supply so much meat for so many people.

Are you kidding me?!

Moses had seen miracle after miracle, and he dared wonder how God could manage to find meat in the desert?

Actually, Moses asked God how he…Moses…was to get the meat.  Moses left God out of the picture.

Moses was run down, discouraged, tired, burdened. 

Pretty much like we feel today. 

Here we are, on the first day of a new year, trying to summon hope in the middle of our burdens.

2021 must be better than 2020, right?!

It HAS to be!!

We can’t handle anymore stress in our world and in our homes!

But I think that deep down we all know that we are entering this new year staring ahead at huge problems that still loom large. 

That’s why God’s answer to Moses is a HUGE promise to each of us who know and follow God.

“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Is the Lord’s power limited?  Now you shall see whether My word will come true for you or not.’  (Numbers 11:23)

Another version of what God said was this: “Is the Lord’s arm too short?”

That phrase brought to mind the fact that Pharaoh was said to be the possessor of a strong arm.  Yet God defeated Pharaoh with His much stronger arm.

Remember, Israel?

Remember all the plagues and the miracles?

Remember the exodus from Egypt?

Remember the parting of the Red Sea?

How could they forget?!

Yet I am no different.  How can I so often forget what God has done and what He has promised, to ME?

I have been challenged by others to have a word for this year.  And so my word is:

REMEMBER

Primarily, to remember just who God is and that His arm is strong and is long enough to carry me and help me and protect me.

To REMEMBER God’s past answers to prayer.

To REMEMBER His promises to me in His Word.

To REMEMBER Who He is, and how He never changes.

God’s arm is never shortened, and His power is never limited.

So may I…and all of us…remember.

This new year here in our neck of the woods has begun beautifully.

May I allow God’s beauty to permeate my heart every day in the uncertain times ahead as I…

REMEMBER!

The Nail Trim

Dad showed me such love in the simple deed of trimming my nails when I was young. Now it was my turn to show him the same love in the simple deed of doing the same for him in his weakened state.

He Said What?!

I remember climbing on my Daddy’s lap when I was a little girl.  He was sitting in his chair near the fireplace, with his shelves of books on one side and his end table on the other.  His newspaper was on the end table where he could eventually read it at the end of a busy, tiring day on the railroad.  His Bible was also laying there within easy reach.  He read his Bible often as he sat in his chair. He was always ready and willing to listen to my questions about what the Bible said about this and that, especially as I got older.

 
But when I was little and would climb on his lap, I remember the gentleness that he showed.  In the early years he smelled of pipe tobacco and smoke…..that subtle odor that comforted me.  I can still…

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Lessons From the Rooted Redbud

He Said What?!

We have three Redbud trees out in our back yard, standing alone in a little row.  Every spring they bloom beautifully and give us a lot of joy as we look at them from the house.  However, we began to notice over the past couple years that they were struggling.  They just weren’t as vibrant and full, especially the tree in the middle.  Finally, last year, we had to cut down that middle tree.   We felt it was just too far gone to have any hope of survival.

Weeks went by, and one day as I stood at our kitchen window, I noticed something between the two remaining Redbuds.  It looked like a clump of some sort.  Was it a pile of dead grass left from Gary’s mowing?  I soon forgot about it, but once again several days later I noticed…

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Aaron’s Talking Points #11

Here are more of Aaron’s sayings, collected over the years. Have fun reading!

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Aaron and I finished our Skip-Bo game. I reached out to get some cards that he was handing me.

Aaron: Your hands are skinny……

And all I heard was the word “skinny.” Something on me was identified as skinny??!!

Aaron (continuing): …..like an alien.

Hmmmmm.

I’ll take it!

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While talking about his group this morning, Aaron said, “Mom, a girl there likes me. I would put it as she doesn’t love me but she likes me.”

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Aaron drinks water or other beverages like he’s in a contest to see who can down his drink the fastest. He turns it up, chug-a-lugs, and down it goes. He even drinks his coffee that way, once it cools, which is a total travesty. We’re always telling him to slow down…savor each sip…taste each swallow.

Today I fixed him some hot tea that he wanted. He came downstairs later, cup empty, and gave me this report:

“Mom! I was not drinking all of it. I was just drinking PARTS of it!”

In other words, he SIPPED his tea! But as usual, his description is far more interesting than ours. 😁🥃☕🥛

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Oh, silly people who call this little round thing a coaster. Aaron told me the correct name last night.

This is a drink plate.

Got it?

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Aaron was telling me all about the chicken in the deli at Dillon’s.

“They have fried chicken. They have that chicken with no bones. And they have pop-tart chicken!”

Um, that would be popcorn chicken, Aaron. But with pop-tart chicken you could have breakfast and lunch in one!

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Aaron and I were talking about how some people do bad things, and that the color of a person’s skin doesn’t make them bad or not bad. He thought a minute and then said, “So not a person’s skin or their species makes them bad?”

Species? Let’s start over.

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Yesterday Aaron and I were listening to Zac Brown.

Zac Brown: …and if you say that I’m too late, I’ll curl up and die in misery.

Aaron laughed and laughed.

Me: Why are you laughing at that?

Aaron: He said he would curl up by Miss Ugly!!

I’m afraid I let this life lesson pass right by as we both dissolved in laughter. 🤪😂😂

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Aaron had a seizure last night. Just one, but is he ever wired this morning! He was out of bed very early and has talked pretty well nonstop. He considered playing a game on his computer, but I reminded him that this is not a good idea after having a seizure.

Me: Aaron, you know that playing a game might get your brain too riled up.

Aaron: So a game might make me wild up?

I didn’t tell Aaron, but I actually think it’s too late to stop that! 🤪♥️♥️

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In Wal-Mart today, Aaron’s eyes latched on to a display of colorful, adorable, stuffed pigs. He instantly latched on to the brightest one there. He had me when he said, “Can I own him?” 😃

Aaron may be our adult son, but sometimes he’s just still so cute and dear. ❤️

And he now owns a very bright pig!

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I was frustrated with Aaron today when I picked him up from his day group because he told me he had given some of his money away to a friend. We work and work to make him stop giving away his money, but still he sometimes does this.

So, I gave him the lecture.

Then I gave a big sigh.

Aaron: Mom, don’t fight and don’t breathe!

Well, I guess if I quit breathing then I would also quit fighting. 😜🤔

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Since Gary and I got home from Houston, and after all of Aaron’s weekend seizures, he’s been telling us that his legs are weak. Finally, yesterday, he got it figured out.

“Mom, I think those six seizures stiffed my legs!!”

I want to show I’m sorry about his legs, but it sure is hard not to laugh at his wonderful way with words.

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Aaron and I got home from eating lunch out (at last!!), and then running several errands. He was very compliant with staying near me while we were out, using hand sanitizer at the air base before we could enter, and only walking one way up and down the store aisles. 🙄

Soon after we were home, he wanted a piece of cake that we made the other day, so I told him to wash his hands. He finally showed his frustration.

“Is that a government law??” he asked with disdain.

I assured him it was Mom’s law and he REALLY better obey that one!! 😂😂

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Andrea got me some beautiful roses and there are some ferns mixed in. Aaron saw pieces of the ferns that had fallen on the table and asked what they were. “Mom, I thought your hair was shredding on the table.” I hope not. I have enough hair problems without adding shredded hair to the list!

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Aaron: “So are you getting something special since it’s your Mother’s Day?”

I walked over to him, put my arm around him and said, “Well, a hug is special.”

Aaron: “I was talking about food!!”

Ah, if Mom gets special food then Aaron might get special food. Smart boy!

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Gary took Aaron out today, and when they came home, in walked Aaron with his arms full of candy and cookies and a really fun card for me.

Aaron: Here, Mom! These are for you.

Me: Wow, Aaron! Thank you so much!!

Then I decided to tease him a little.

Me: So, do I have to share these with you?

Aaron: No. I don’t like any of them.

And off he walked.

Never underestimate Aaron’s honesty and clarity. 😀😀

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‘Til next time! And trust me, there WILL be a next time! 🙂

Life is Like a Coupon Box

He Said What?!

I walked into the kitchen on a recent Sunday, after Aaron had completed his usual Sunday coupon clipping chore.  There on the counter lay a Dillon’s coupon, one that I had put into my coupon box several days earlier.  I knew right away what this lone coupon on the counter meant.  It spoke volumes to me as it silently stared up at me…..volumes about our Aaron.

You see, this coupon…

 WP_20171008_15_02_35_Pro

Does NOT belong among these coupons.

 WP_20171008_15_03_30_Pro

The Dillon’s coupon is not a regular coupon to Aaron, and only regular Sunday coupons are to be placed…precisely…in the coupon box.

Silly mom for thinking otherwise.

Aaron’s life is like that coupon box.

Aaron wants most things in his world to be done in a certain order…..words said in a particular way…with order and sequence and expected results.  But life doesn’t operate that way, no matter how much Aaron tries to…

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