I spent the day yesterday quilting. I know, weird! She rides motorcycles, bakes bread, occasionally swears…. AND she quilts? Yeah, that ‘s what happens when your name is Jackie.
I realize that to the untrained eye these quilting blocks look perfect, (don’t look too close) but to the seasoned quilter you will see that every single square is flawed in some way. (except for the one that required no sewing… I nailed that one!)
These blocks with different quilting patterns remind me of different seasons of my life. Each one seems scary…. some far scarier than others…. which is why, honestly, I would never attempt quilting on my own. I mean, I guess I could, but why?
Here’s the thing, I SUCK at reading instructions or watching instructional videos, both of which are required in quilting. The other thing I’m really horrible at is FOLLOWING INSTRUCTIONS. No bueno! I’m pretty sure rules were made for me to break, which is why it is so awesome to surround myself with my talented daughter and sister while trying to put these intricate pieces together.
In the end, I’m going to have a quilt that will certainly impress most, and I will have cut and sewn every piece, but only because Mallory and Leslee watched the video, read the written instructions and told me exactly what to do, while I distracted myself on my phone and did all I could just to be out in the world functioning, appearing to be doing a great job at life.
Each block or season presents a new set of challenges to face. Sometimes what we learned on a previous block can be used on other blocks, which is awesome, and gives me confidence when I roll that sharp little cutter across my expensive fabric, feeling reassured that I’m “doing it right”. Other times we look at the photo of what the end result is supposed to look like and feel completely overwhelmed, clueless and just need the help of others who posses knowledge in that area to give us the confidence we need to get to the end.
Here is what quilting with Jackie looks like…. She just shows up, she doesn’t bring her own cutter or even her own machine. She just shows up and knows that those she loves will help her and let her borrow their love, support and quilting equipment. She smiles and looks like she’s doing okay, but really she’s just trying to look the way she’s supposed to look……. no one really knows how she’s supposed to look, so she’s just winging it. Some days, the only way we get to the end of the day is by leaning on those we love.
Notice the square that has FOUR strips of fabric turned in four directions. If you are a quilter or if you were to see Mallory and Leslee’s square , you would know that there are only supposed to be THREE strips of fabric going in four directions. Somehow, and don’t ask me how, even though I did what they told me to do, my strips and squares ended up too small…. Rather than me unpick and re-sew or re-cut, quilting with Jackie means you just cut another strip and make your own pattern. When I look at my finished square I think it looks great…. until I compare it with Mallory’s or Leslee’s square…. that is why we should never compare.
Do you see the square that looks like a maple leaf? It requires you to sew two triangles together, “square them up”, and then iron them, making them into a perfect square. Well…. Quilting with Jackie means that since you have no idea how the ruler works, and you don’t have an attention span long enough to learn how, you just sew the triangles together, iron them open, eye ball the “square” and trim up the edges until it resembles a square. It takes longer, and there’s a 90% chance my squares are going to be the wrong size, but who cares…. It’ll all come together in the end… won’t it? What’s the lesson here? Life isn’t perfect, we all take different paths, but with the help of those we love and with the atonement of Jesus Christ, everything does come together in the end. Yeah, my quilt may not look perfect to the trained eye, but its MY QUILT, and it will have character, memories, and lessons learned.
You see that block in the center? I kind of hate it. It stares me down and taunts me. Here’s the thing, I’ve already unpicked that stupid thing once and re-sewed it… notice that it’s still jacked up. I keep trying to convince myself that I’m going to leave it just the way it is and be happy with it, but when I’m honest with myself I start to come up with other options…. Like….FINE… if I have enough fabric in the end, I’ll re-cut the whole thing and sew a new one, making sure it’s perfect each step of the way, or, maybe Mallory and Leslee will feel sorry for me and do it for me. (insert big smiley face emoji here) So what’s the lesson? Well, there are a few, one, life isn’t perfect, it’s messy and sometimes it leaves permanent scars, sometimes the turmoil and hardship of one block affects the blocks touching it and we have to make adjustments to fit it all together… we just do our best and when we look at the scars or imperfect parts of our life we have compassion for ourselves and humor and love our diversity and spunk in just getting through it. Two, we accept the fact that sometimes, even after we’ve done our best, given all we have to give, and even accepted help from others, life still won’t be perfect, and that’s why we have the gift of Christ’s atonement… to make up the difference, He takes what we are and turns us into something beautiful.
I’m feeling pretty good about the large pinwheel and the large checker-board pattern next to it. Somehow, miraculously I nailed those. Let’s be honest, it was not because I know what I’m doing and it certainly wasn’t because of skill. It wasn’t even because I’m familiar with the machine I was using….I’m that person who didn’t bring a machine remember?… I just jumped onto Mallory’s or Leslee’s machine when they weren’t using it. The reason some blocks in our life come together with ease is because somehow the stars just align, we receive blessings, we feel of God’s love, and people are placed in our lives who help us at just the right time. These are the moments in life that we need to record and engrave in our minds, to be grateful for, to return to when we need hope.
When making a quilt, especially one that involves twelve different quilting patterns…. Which most closely resembles life, because in reality, who lives the same block over and over? Isn’t every season, trial and experience different? For years I’ve tried to do life alone. I’ve tried to appear perfect. I’ve realized I can’t. I won’t make it alone. In order to finish without losing my mind, throwing up my hands and dropping this quilt in the garbage, I had to soften, be vulnerable, peel layers of protection away from my heart, allow others to help me, accept my imperfections and celebrate my wins. I have to love myself and offer compassion to myself as I would anyone else. On days when all I can do is show up, I have to trust that those who love me will carry me and most importantly I have to look to the Savior and feel truth in my body…. He loves me. He died for me. He knows how I feel and I am never alone.
In the end, when it comes time to put all these blocks together, have an experienced quilter quilt over the top to hold things all in place, and bind the edges, I will fall on my knees and thank my loving Father in Heaven for placing angels in my life that help me in a variety of ways to get through each season of life and for watching his Only Begotten Son suffer and die so that I could be succored and carried as I so clumsily cut, piece and tirelessly sew together this thing called life.