My Great Quilt of Witnesses

We have no power in our house tonight. 

The outside is blizzarding and it seems good and well to all to stay inside. 

In the glow of candlelight and phone screens my husband and I are doing the rounds of checking in, turning off lights that aren’t light, and hauling our oldest out of the tub where he’s reading in quiet murk by book light. 

My lot is to creep into the rooms of the youngers and make sure they are warm enough. My daughter who, like her father, is a furnace and my son who has never had a spare ounce of insulating flesh in his life. As I try to creep and don’t succeed because of Lego and Polly Pockets I reach into the tops of their closets for the extra blankets. 

Extra blankets are an essential in our house. To my husband they represent provision. The ability for, on nights such as this to provide warmth for whoever in whatever numbers may be under our roof. 

The blankets are essential for me too but they represent something different. 

As I reach up into the top of my daughter’s closet I pull down memories. Sunbonnet quilts hand sewn by my great aunt, a woman lauded for her kindness, the woman my mother is named after. My daughter shares their name. An afghan knitted for me by my grandmother no longer with us and another crocheted for me by my oldest sister when I was a child. I pause, but no, it’s not quite cold enough to add the wedding bedspread in all its white weighted-ness that was knitted for my husband and I by my mother’s sister.  

My son becomes loaded up with baby quilts sewn by community women, layered and overlapped over each other. 

As I handle these blankets, feel their familiar textures, I am flooded with the feeling of provision. In the gift of these blankets people who love and loved me have crafted warmth and care around me and around my children. 

These layers of generational love for me and my children they may not have met is a witness to me of how not only physically but emotionally we provide for each other. I share the stories of these women with my children. Their stories of faith and kindness and laughter. This testimony of personhood that my children can hear of and be surrounded by as they cuddle up in the warmth. 

“Therefore, as we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything  that hinders and sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out before us.” Hebrews 12:1

The reassurance of those who came before me is warmth and strength to me. Knowing that there were others who have gone before and bear witness to God’s timeless work in our lives. That in telling their stores not only do we remember them but my children hear the testimony of God in life back beyond their memory but not beyond story. 

I am so grateful for those who have gone before in strength and courage and faith. And that they cared for and remembered me. And I wonder what they thought of the generations that would come. Did they wonder if the the care of their time and handiwork would warm those in the future? Did they wonder if they would be remembered?

They are. And their stories weave in with mine and ours. 

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More Saul than David

I used to think that King Saul got a bad rap.

A man who was anointed as king but didn’t ask to be. A man feeling insecure and thrown into a situation where Israel had asked for something outside of God’s plan and God had provided Saul as the solution.

I don’t envy Saul.

And I used to think his actions weren’t necessarily his fault. That he was under-equipped for the task at hand and was just doing his best in the face of Philistine invasion. That his poor decisions were a result of misstep only.

Often when I read scripture and feel bad for people in it and try to justify their actions God says to me “look a little closer”. It was the case with my feeling sympathy for Martha trying her best to meet social expectations while Mary sat at the feet of Jesus, uncaring about what other people thought. Lesson learned (or at least, need for learning of lesson acknowledged).

So what am I learning when I look at my sympathy/empathy for Saul?

I see a person who feels unready for leadership.

I see a person who wants a solution. Who wants answers and action to make the problem go away.

I see someone who has a hard time waiting on God to move so tries, through all the right channels (worship, sacrifice), to jog the situation along.

I see someone who is working on rather than waiting upon.

How often is the drive there in my own life to move my situation along. To see something in life that I think needs fixing or needs a plan, needs a nudge in the right direction because what I think should happen must be right.

And intentions are good.

But intentions are not always aligned with what God is doing.

Because what God is doing is not always clear or, to my mind, timely.

Saul was a man of action. He saw what he thought the people needed. He functioned under the pressure of the role and what he thought were the needs of the people and the nation.

My people have needs and though my personal nation is so much smaller I am aware of trying to keep everything going and moving in what I think is the right direction. And I am clumsy in it.

I am clumsy in trying to say the thing and do the thing that makes the thing happen. Because in the saying and doing and making I don’t always leave space for God. I know in my head and experience that waiting on God and being still is the best thing but my saying and doing and making don’t always align with what’s best.

And I’m left in situations feeling foolish for the saying and doing and striving.

Feeling smaller and unconfident because I’m not big enough to do what God does.

It’s often in these times of slinking away and licking my wounds, in the times of analyzing every word and every possible way people could be thinking of my words, that God speaks to me. A hand on my arm and a shared sigh. An acknowledgement that, like Saul, my rushing efforts cause me often to trip over my own desires.

That being silent and still is allowing the bigness to move in small ways.

That it’s not about getting out of God’s way, but pausing and side stepping as he steps forward and takes the lead.

And realizing that my clumsiness has not messed up what God has planned for me. That people don’t focus on my mistakes as I do (if they even notice). And that who I’m pitying is really myself when I am mirrored in biblical people who struggled.