It was a perfect time for me to ask Margaret to take my week and write for this weeks Monday Musings. This has been...IS...a chaotic time with my end of the year productions that seem to be overlapping like crazy! Sometimes it feels like my head will explode with the many production details, staging issues and various locations for each of these events. It's the nature of a music teacher...of course, one who loves to go above and beyond to ensure everything goes "practically perfect in every way" as is the way of Sherry Barron and Mary Poppins! I might add that things were falling to pieces a couple of weeks ago. Brian was sick, my car broke down, I was under a great deal of stress, and naturally...I had to have 2 new tires for my car! Life seemed to be going to pieces! Margaret had no idea of my life circumstances when I asked her to write for me. She told me "after praying," this is what God instructed her to pen in the blog below.
When Life Goes to Pieces by Margaret Kemp
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.
I didn’t quilt again until recently when I once again found myself housebound and without employment. This time health issues necessitated that I take a sabbatical from work. I had surgery during the summer, and I knew I would grieve when the new school year started without me. There would be no classroom to arrange, no bulletin boards to put up, no door to decorate with the names of new little friends for me to teach.
I mentioned to my sister that I might like to take up quilting again. That was all she needed to hear; my sweet sister was not going to let me sit around feeling sorry for myself. The stitches from my surgery had not yet been removed, but my sister insisted on driving me to a quilting shop so we could select fabric. My new project gave me something productive to do in the days following my surgery. And I officially had the quilting bug.
I scoured crafting websites for quilting ideas and came across a quilt kit that kept calling my name. This kit contained materials and instructions to make a full size quilt called “Garden Maze.” The colors caught my attention and reeled me in. On a stark background of black were deep jewel-tone colors….brilliant sapphire blues, amethysts, and various shades of jade and turquoise. The colors alone were stunning, but against the contrast of the black background they were positively dazzling.
The quilt reminds me of something I learned in this season of my life: Sometimes we don’t fully appreciate the richness and the beauty that God has given us until we are in dark places. In those places, we recognize the little miracles that we tend to take for granted, and we see the big miracles He performs in bringing light out of darkness.
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.
When I was able to drive a car once again, I was so thankful for the freedom to be able to get behind the wheel, to feel the warmth of the sunshine passing through the windshield, to experience the exhilaration of getting out into the real world. After being under a sentence of “house arrest” for a few weeks, even going to the grocery seemed like a privilege.
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.
This Sabbatical in my life has given me the gift of time…time that is free from normal responsibilities, time to spend in prayer and Bible study, time to spend with God and get to know Him as a compassionate heavenly Father who always does what’s right and who never gives me more trouble than I can bear, but always gives mercy and grace to help in time of need. His Presence brightened my difficult days and uncomfortable nights. That has been the most beautiful aspect of this past year.
“For you are a lamp, O Lord, and my God lightens my darkness.” II Samuel 22:29
When David was in a dark place, pursued by Saul, God delivered him. David responded by writing a psalm of praise that we read in II Samuel 22. During his struggles David learned much about the character of God. He came to know God as his Rock and his shield, a God who strengthened him and gave him victory over his adversaries. When David would become distressed, he would begin by crying out to the Lord, but then he would remember how God had delivered him in the past, and his depression would give way to hope and praise.
Sometimes life doesn’t go the way we plan. Sometimes it seems like everything is going to pieces, and we find ourselves in dark places. But 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.
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.
My NIV Life Application study Bible has this explanation of altars:
“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.”
My Garden Maze quilt is going to be my “altar” to serve as a reminder of this period in my life where even in the midst of difficulty, God’s dazzling love and mercy shone bright.
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.
So in closing, I'd like to re-state what Margaret said that really stood out to me:
"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
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