I once saw a T- shirt that read “When Life Goes to Pieces Make a Quilt.” I don’t consider myself an avid quilter, but there have been a couple of occasions when my life has gone to pieces, and I have, in fact, made a quilt.
My first teaching job was in a small, struggling private school. I began teaching elementary school in August; by February the school was bankrupt and paychecks stopped coming. The school closed its doors in April. April is not a good time for a classroom teacher to find a new position, so I had to wait until the beginning of the next school year in August to find a new job. For five months there I was, a young wife alone in a one bedroom apartment for most of the day, with no car and no spending money to speak of. But I did have a sewing machine and lots of fabric scraps. So I made a quilt, which, by the way, I still use today. It reminds me of a time when I learned to trust God to provide financially, and in the meantime to be content with what I had. I learned to make the best of the situation and to create something to show for all my time spent in limbo.
“Keep your life free from love of money,
and be content with what you have,
for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’”
“I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.
In any and every circumstance,
I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Philippians 4: 12-13
In my sickness, I learned to appreciate the everyday blessings that I used to overlook. For example, during my treatment I took medicine that made me nauseous and unable to eat. When I did eat, food had a peculiar, unappetizing, metallic taste. I remember the first meal I enjoyed when that awful medicine was out of my system. I could finally tolerate—no, savor!—the pungent aroma of meat on the grill. I had a tender, juicy, sizzling steak (sorry, vegetarian friends!) and a hot, cheesy baked potato dripping with butter. I don’t remember anything ever tasting so good.
And when I was able to attend a football game…wow! What a joy to participate in life once again! Though the chilly night air pricked my sensitive skin, and my weakened leg muscles struggled to carry me from the parking lot to the stadium, I was delighted to be among all those noisy, normal, healthy people doing something…normal. The triumphant notes of the fight song, delivered by the band with such pomp and ceremony…those became my fight song, my victory song as I fought to regain the life I had taken for granted.
The real gems I discovered during my illness, though, were the relationships with precious friends and family members. Their gestures of love were the bright colors against the dark backdrop of my illness. I am so grateful for the way each friend added a unique splash of beauty and color to my life.
During this dark time, God’s faithfulness shone bright as he carried me through the difficult, painful days and answered prayers for healing. I might be tempted to chalk that healing up to the wonders of modern medicine…but then I hear stories about people afflicted with the same condition that I had, but who didn’t fare nearly as well as I did. That’s when I recall how many, many people were praying for me, and I know my healing is an answer to prayer.
It was often in times of difficulty that the Old Testament patriarchs met with God. Abram was in an uncertain place; he left his country and his people to travel to a land that God would show him. God promised that through Abram (or Abraham, as He was later known) all the people on earth would be blessed. God promised Abram numerous descendants, yet at the time the promise was made Abram had no offspring. But several times along the way, God met Abram in his place of uncertainty. Abram marked these places of revelation by building an altar.
“Abram built an altar to the Lord. Altars were used in many religions, but for God’s people, altars were more than places of sacrifice. For them, altars symbolized communion with God and commemorated notable encounters with him. Built of rough stones and earth, altars often remain in place for years as continual reminders of God’s protection and promises. Abram regularly built altars to God for two reasons:
(1) for prayer and worship
(2) as reminders of God’s promise to bless him.
Abram couldn’t survive spiritually without regularly renewing his love and loyalty to God. Building altars helped Abram remember that God was at the center of his life.”
When you are in a dark place, when your life is falling to pieces, turn to the One who is your Light and Salvation, who can stitch those pieces together. Learn from him during the dark times. Ask Him to illumine your darkness. Ask him to reveal more of Himself to you. Look for the blessings, big and small, that will shine in those times. Then build an altar to remember what you’ve learned. Make a quilt. Write a song. Keep a journal. Keep a souvenir of God’s faithfulness, so you can remember the God who has answered you in your distress and who will never leave you nor forsake you.
“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" Psalm 27:1
“I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!
Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:13-14
"God can take those ragged pieces and put them together to create something more splendid than we can imagine. He can use the contrast of the dark places to showcase the brilliant blessings He has for us."
At the posting of this blog, I am winding up my last production. Things got a little ragged, but yes indeed, He has showcased brilliant blessings for me this past week and life is looking brighter, lighter, and more full of joy! Thank you Margaret for sharing your heart. It's exactly what my soul needed. For those of you reading, I hope you were blessed as much as me. Lean in! Hang on by those threads! Let the Lord do His mending work! Then showcase His brilliance in your life! Trusting His Faithfulness, Sherry