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Pieces of Our Past

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Among my most prized possessions are a couple of very old quilts.

They are not just any old quilts discovered in a dust-covered box in the corner of an attic. They were made by my two grandmothers, especially for me. These were women whose lives crossed two centuries and who struggled through the Great Depression while raising large families. Each long outlived her husband, one even surviving two children and a grandchild. Both lived productively and relevantly in a world that changed at a pace that threatened to leave them behind.

It would never have occurred to either of my grandmothers to go to a fabric store to purchase material specifically to make a quilt. Instead, they used whatever fabric scraps they had around the house.

My maternal grandmother often used the fabric from old feed and flour sacks when she made quilts. She always kept a yard full of chickens, and way back then, their feed came in large sacks. The flour she used to make biscuits like no one else could was also available in bulk in huge fabric sacks that later became dishtowels and sometimes even dresses and shirts.

When my paternal grandmother made quilts, she used fabric scraps from dresses she had sewn for herself, my cousins and me. She always had some type of needlework project underway: an afghan here, a needlepoint picture there, a dress waiting to be stitched at the sewing machine.

Today when I look at my quilts, I see not only warm coverings for my bed, but also pictures of my past. Each quilt square brings a particular image to my mind.

I see one grandmother walking around in her yard, calling out to her chickens and tossing feed to them from a large basin. I see my other grandmother also outside, tending to her vibrantly colored hydrangeas. I also see myself as a child and remember how old I was and how I looked wearing the dress from which that fabric piece was made.

My quilts hold many stories and represent several lives. The squares that comprise them may not look like much by themselves, but combined with the others, they make a rich and colorful work of art.

Quilt pieces offer a fairly good analogy of the way God has worked the divine plan throughout history. In the Bible, we find stories of people’s lives that, when joined with all the others, tell the big-picture story of God’s redemptive plan for the world.

As you move through Advent and head toward Christmas this year, avoid racing past the genealogy in Matthew 1. Sure, the names are sometimes difficult to pronounce, and we can’t always recall just who those people were. But they are important pieces of Jesus’ past, and of ours. Understanding who they were helps us better understand Jesus and ourselves.

Each played a vital role in the unfolding will of God. Some of them were noble and upright; others were somewhat questionable. A few were even scoundrels. But together they form the faith family that produced the one whose birth and life we prepare now to celebrate. They remind us that everyone has a place in the divine plan, even those toss-aside scraps and pieces of broken lives. When they are joined with all the others in the Church, a wonderful pattern emerges.

As you look at the pattern of God’s will throughout history, allow God to help you see people today with new eyes, each one potentially a part of the faith family—yours and mine.

Jan Turrentine is managing editor of Acacia Resources.