As I’ve been getting older and I watch you, too, getting older, I’ve thought a lot about the fact that none of us choose our parents or our extended family, or the community or the times we are born into. You didn’t choose your Amish family, but I don’t think you would have wanted it any other way, and I would not have wanted any other family or community for myself either. And even though we had no choices about any of this, we know God did:
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you when
I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together
in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were
written in your book before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
Psalm 139 NIV
I need to count it as part of God’s gifts to me that I happened to be born into this family, where quilting was an honored tradition. I was born into this family where Dad’s Grandmother Barbara’s basket quilt is part of the Illinois State Museum’s collection of Amish quilts, and where his Mother Susie’s wedding quilt to you and Dad is in my own collection. The quilts you made continue to warm the beds in our home. Quilting was what I grew up with. Because of what you taught us girls about sewing, and how you modeled quilting and encouraged our participation with our own needle and thread and thimble, by the time I was 10, I thought of myself as a quilter like you.
But it wasn’t just quilting that was important to you. I knew that studying the Bible was also important, and although I might have seemed to rebel at that, believe me, Mom, when I say that you were my earliest, most important teacher and encourager. You taught me that reading the Bible in the middle of the day was as important as weeding the garden and washing the dishes. You made time for me to find my own way to the Bible, to discover the wonder of Scripture, the beauty of the Psalms, and the power of those red-letter words of Jesus in our big family Bible. I love that Bible and treasure it. That Bible and the quilts have shaped my life – don’t you think it’s amazing that it took me so long to use my two loves together?
Wome of the Bible quilt.
Mom, it’s been almost 15 years ago that I started making the Women of the Bible quilt. I’ll tell you something about that quilt that nobody knows – you and Sister Dee are the only people, other than me, who put any stitches in that quilt. I had wanted it to be all my own work, but as you know, the process dragged out due to my illness and surgeries. I had worked on it alone for more than three years, then you stepped in and helped me quilt, and I was able to finish it and it was accepted at the Paducah show. What an honor! For four years I prayed that God would give that quilt a ministry, hoping that the stories of the women in the Bible would be intriguing enough to bring people back to reading those stories. I learned so much personally through the challenge of making the right traditional block to represent each woman (“Garden of Eden” for Eve; “Sarah’s Choice” for Sarah; “Cross Roads” for Lot’s Wife, and so on), and I learned so many lessons in the stories themselves, and in the process of making the blocks. God answered my prayer and that quilt has a ministry, but I never dreamed that it would be in my lifetime and that I would be a part of it, that I would be teaching others, and even speaking in front of a group about anything like this. It’s been amazing to see how God has brought opportunities to me, because of that quilt.
You’ve been part of many of those opportunities that came about after the Women of the Bible Quilt, too, Mom. Thanks for your support in helping our team of four go to Mongolia to teach quilting at the women’s center in 2008. What a wonderful opportunity to reach out a hand in friendship to the women in Mongolia. And thanks for your encouragement as I was making the Psalms Quilt for the Relief Sale. I wasn’t sure I’d get it done in a year, but your prayers for me helped.
Mom, I look at your life and have such respect, more and more, for your 93 years of quiet faith and positive encouragement, and for teaching through your example of reaching out to others in service. Your hard work has given us opportunities for the education that you and Dad did not have, but that you wanted and provided for your daughters. You were my first, and have been my longest teacher and greatest mentor. You often taught me and others one-by-one, but I now stand in front of a quilt class of 15 or speak to a group of 100, and it is often you that I am quoting or referring to when I share the important lessons I’ve learned in life and quilting. You’ve taught me so much about relationships: kindness, service and love. Perhaps it is what God asks of us in our relationships with each other. I thought about those kinds of woman-to-woman relationships when I designed the “Sisters of the Bible Quilt” pattern and dedicated it to my own sisters.
Sisters of the Bible quilt.
I know that I will forever praise God for the wisdom of placing me in this family, in this community, with this faith to embrace, and with the gifts that God has given me to allow me to see the miracles of giving back to God in service.
Thanks, Mom! I love you!