Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Life Lessons through CieJae's 1st Quilt

About 5 years ago when my daughter was about 13 she needed something for a Young Women's Project and was out of school for a couple of months, recovering from Mononucleosis. So I bought this beginners's quilt kit for her thinking that it would be something she could do without too much physical exertion, learn something that she could enjoy for the rest of her life and receive the validation that comes from having created something beautiful. 

We went up to our condo at Zermatt Resort in Midway to stay for about 10 days, set up ironing boards, sewing tables and machines and worked on our quilts together whenever she felt up to it with the very limited energy she had.  We had a great relaxed time together.

She recovered without finishing the quilt however, and from then on it was a battle trying to get her to finish it. As CieJae experienced junior high and high school she was having some personal self doubt battles, not unlike many teenage girls.  Over the years I invited her to quilt with me, offered to teach her more about quilting and encouraged her to finish the project telling her how good it would feel to finish it.  What I saw as a way to help her feel good about something she had accomplished, she saw as my wanting to "control" her.
Often we can only see the bits and pieces (trials) in our lives 
During her senior year of high school, CieJae was struggling with an eating disorder, anorexia. On one of her very low days, I suggested we go downtown and choose a fabric for the back of her quilt, again, hoping that finishing it might give her an emotional boost.  An eating disorder puts the hormones and subsequently emotions, on a super roller coaster in addition to draining the energy level and this trip started to look like a disaster until she saw some "bright orange" minkee. At around $17.00 a yard, I was very hesitant, knowing our financial stresses and that if she didn't finish the quilt this fabric would be wasted.  But I decided that if this is what it took to get her to finish the quilt and it did give her the boost I thought it would, then it would be worth the price.  She lost interest in it again almost as soon as we returned home.

As she prepared for graduation, it was decided that she would move into an apartment in Orem during the summer for a trial run (managing the disorder while adjusting to living away from home and with roommates before adding the pressures of college).  Knowing the quilt would never get finished if it was packed away with her high school memories, I told her that finishing it was a requirement before she could leave home.  She lashed out in anger, saying "I will never use it, in fact I don't even like it and I want it tied anyway."

Having just recently put a lot of money into the orange minkee because she had insisted it was the only fabric she liked, and knowing the effort on my part that the machine quilting would take, and feeling at that moment like she was being an ungrateful little twit, I lost it.  I told her she could not move out or even go out with her friends that night until it was totally done.   She angrily slapped the borders on telling me she never wanted to see it again.  I recognized that this was not her real self talking, but it still hurt.  I was just sick inside, that in addition to the worry of whether or not my daughter would even survive this disorder, what had started out as a bonding experience had become such a battleground.

At this point I didn't even want to look at her quilt, let alone quilt it, knowing she had pieced it mostly under protest and worrying that it would always be a reminder of a struggle between us.  I put it in a box and stuck it on a top shelf in my quilt studio so I wouldn't have to look at it.

CieJae's quilt showing the borders and the backing "Minkee" fabric.
A couple of months later (when I was in the middle of a very busy time, of course) she came into the quilt studio one day as I was working with a client choosing a design.  She said, "Mom, where is my quilt? I want to choose a quilting pattern for it."  I pointed to the top shelf in dread but kept my mouth shut.  She got it out, opened up the design books and with what seemed to be very little thought pointed to a pattern.  "This is the one I want."

I told her I would get to it when I could, like I said, really dreading the final result.  Later I pulled it out trying not to look at the obvious issues.  I loaded the quilt on the frame and quilted it, adjusting the pattern size small enough to make sure it hit the majority of the seams in such a way as to hold it together in spite of the construction.

When I took the quilt off the frames and laid it on the table, I was astounded.  It looked wonderful.  I was so excited to give it to her.  I made and applied the binding and she took it home to hand stitch.  When she was finally finished with it she was so proud of that quilt. Especially when friends and roommates would ask about it and she could say "I made it".

The reasons for our trials, the lessons we have learned, often don't become apparent until we are near the end.
A few weeks later we were having a lesson in Relief Society on how Heavenly Father can see much farther down the road of our lives than we can and how we should trust Him to bless us with the things He knows we need, rather than the things we want.  He can see the big picture. He knows that if we will just keep moving forward, accomplishing the tasks before us and overcoming the trials that "after all we can do" He will make up the difference.

Having given CieJae's quilt much thought over the weeks prior to this lesson,  I recognized an anology.  God gives us experiences that he knows will be for our good. (I knew that it would add to CieJae's feeling of self worth if she would finish the quilt and so badly wanted her to have that validation).  He allows us to struggle through trials we most often do not understand the reason for, and at times rail against, waiting for us to ask for His help and be teachable, before he sends us the blessings we need. (It would have been much easier for me to just step in and finish the quilt for CieJae, but I knew that it was important for her to #1 ask for help if she wanted it ( which she didn't) and #2 do as much as she was capable of to finish the project on her own.  Once she had done all that she could do to finish the quilt top,  let go of the bad feelings and ask for help in completing the project, the machine quilting covered the imperfections and turned it into something she was proud of. (Christ, through the atonement, covers our sins IF we forgive, repent and accept his atoning sacrifice in our behalf.)

I know that my Heavenly Father and His son, Jesus Christ want so much for us to obtain the growth that comes only from having gone through the struggles we experience here on earth. If they just stepped in and fixed everything for us, the value of this earthly experience would be severely diminished.  If we will rely on them, with their help and guidance and the power of the Atonement, our lives can be changed into the beautiful work that they know (but most often we don't foresee) is possible.

If we will accept Christ's Atoning Sacrifice, he will cover our "mistakes" and help us "finish" this beautiful quilt of life.

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