My Great Grandmother was a simple woman. She loved God before all else and it was evident in every part of her life. She was strong and gentle, firm and compassionate, beautiful and modest, wise and humble. She was a wife, a mother, a grandmother, great grandmother and great-great grandmother before she passed away. There were so many things learned from her by the women in my family. If there was a woman of this century who fit the Bible’s example of a “virtuous woman” it was she.
When she passed away, she didn’t look around at the vast amounts of riches or glory she’d gained, there was no thriving empire to look out over and see what great things she’d built in her long life. Instead, she laid peaceful in a bed, surrounded by all her children, all her grandchildren, most of her great grandchildren and even some of her great-great grandchildren. She listened to their voices, singing songs that she’d taught them, stories that she’d told them or been a part of. Some had her hair, some her eyes, some her strong chin, her soft complexion. She was able to look around her before she took her last breaths, see the faces, hear the voices, the love, the laughter, the sorrow and understanding and know that this was what she built, what she gave, the empire she left to last lifetimes survived her in the generations that sat around her and would continue to carry on with out her.
She didn’t just pass down knowledge of recipes, sewing, gardening, mothering and keeping house, the way she lived her life, loved her family and loved the Lord were the greatest treasures she passed down.
She made a quilt for every baby born in our family and I imagine, babies born in other families too. One memory that stands out when I couldn’t have been older than four. She sat with a pile of material beside her, old dresses, aprons, table cloths and scraps. Humming a sweet hymn, she took out a piece at a time, cutting away the threads that held together whatever pattern it was before. An apron, faded and worn out quickly turned into a pile of rags, frayed along the edges, no longer held together by string. I glanced up when she came to a dress I recognized, a dress I’d worn more times than it could handle. Too small, too worn, it was no use to give or sell, she quickly set to undoing the stitches, cutting away at the pattern that made it mine. “Grandma!” I must have shouted, girl’s tears easily filled my eyes. I can’t remember my words, but the intent could never be forgotten. How could you ruin my dress? She was so calm, so gentle, so easy with words. She paused only for a moment to smile at me and smooth away invisible wrinkles in the dress.
“This dress is too small and is worn in places that can’t be patched or fixed. It’s useless anymore as a dress, but watch and see.” She shook it out and went back to cutting, her nimble hands working quickly as she continued. “It’s exactly the color and pattern I need to make something new.”
I don’t remember if I accepted what she said or simply understood that I couldn’t wear it anymore but she continued cutting away, stripping away the shape and fittings in one pile, leaving a heap of what I saw as ruined dresses, aprons and clothing in another. Eventually she cut them all into squares, strips and shapes though I’m sure I didn’t sit there long enough to see it. One day she’d finished, holding up a beautiful quilt and I could see my favorite dress, the pretty color and pattern in fitted shapes with an apron, a tablecloth, an old shirt. These were things we’d worn out, used up, couldn’t give away or sell. Rather than throwing them away, she turned them into something beautiful, useful, something that would last longer than a size 3 dress or a button up shirt with holes.
Sometimes I sit, one of my grandma’s quilts wrapped around my legs and remember that day. I knew I couldn’t wear that dress anymore, I knew it was ruined and no longer useful and fought with her when she shredded it but she knew that she could tear away all the bad and make it into something better. As I smooth away the wrinkles, I see an old apron or tablecloth, a dress she often wore and remember her nimble hands, working magic over something “throw-away,” turning it into something treasured.
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God,
to them who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
God works that same “magic” in our lives if we trust Him to do so. It might feel sometimes like our lives are being ripped and torn, shredded into pieces and we can’t see passed what it used to be, what we wanted it to be to see what it is, something ruined, no longer useful, not pleasing or serving to the Lord. If we give it up to Him, let him use His nimble hands, He will turn it into something new, something beautiful, something better and long lasting. Like the quilt that covers my lap, whatever He makes will be cherished and we’ll see Him turn the fabric of our past into something unimaginable, something so much better, something according to His purpose.