My paternal grandmother Marvel was a little sparkplug. Maybe five foot tall, she was energetic, resourceful, and fastidious about keeping her house clean, including the garage floor. She was never afraid to share her opinions – whether you liked them or not – or her handiwork: various sewing and baking projects were entered into the annual Louisa County Fair, including her “Fruit Cocktail Pie”. Her favorite; not mine!
There is something special about receiving a handmade quilt from someone, which is where my fondest memories of Grandma Marvel reside. (No, not the polyester-double-knit quilt she made for Linda and me in the 1980’s). But I’ll always cherish memories of the one she gave me in my adolescence, just as she did for each of her six grandchildren.
The attached picture is of my sister Karen’s quilt. In the top right corner, you can see a portion of Marvel’s inscription. You might wonder – where’s mine? That’s the intro for our Thanksgiving reflection together.
My mother adhered to what I would call the prize and preserve school of quilts: treasure for a lifetime, store in a safe place like a cedar chest, and display the handiwork now and then. The two beautiful quilts Linda and I received from River Ridge Covenant Church? Mom would be proud.
Grandma Marvel’s quilt? It came with me as I moved out of my parent’s home, along with a practical need and a general conviction: beloved gifts should be used. My bedspread throughout seminary, it was also a frequent source of comfort for afternoon naps. Mom was not happy.
Fortunately, when we were married, Linda shared my philosophy. Like the Velveteen Rabbit, my dearly-loved quilt became tattered and threadbare. We are grateful for the memories, but can’t specifically remember the conclusion of its existence.
As you may have guessed, this post is not about the proper way to handle quilts. We will push past the typical Thanksgiving week exhortation – be thankful. I want to pose the question: what will you do with your gratitude?
More specifically, I encourage you to make the therapeutic choice to speak those two powerful words: thank you.
Be thankful, and also give thanks.
You already have an heirloom quilt – the medley in your mind of events and experiences, afflictions and advantages, dreams-come-true and disappointments. They are basted onto your memory bank and stitched upon your soul: blessings and burdens, which are often blessings in disguise. We all have them.
What will you do with this patchwork comforter you have been given?
That’s what a quilt often is – a comforter, which begs the question: for whom will it bring comfort?
Mostly our cherished private possessions, the blessings of our positive memories give us emotional comfort around the holidays, or as we wrap ourselves in them on sleepless nights. They are tremendous gifts from God? But are they only for us?
What if we spread our gratitude around, intentionally comforting others with a small section of the quilt of our memories?
Over the pending holidays you will likely see someone for whom you are grateful, maybe as you enjoy some pumpkin pie or eggnog together. Consider this simple action: Call to mind a specific snapshot from your interactions with this person – a helping hand of kindness you received, or simply a quality you appreciate.
And then take the next step: say thank you to that person, either at the table, in a quiet moment together, or over a phone conversation sometime in December. Say the words, and don't forget to tell them why their action or trait has made a difference in your life.
It is crucial to put our gratitude into practice. Saying thank you to others is therapeutic – for the giver and for the receiver.
Here’s another way of saying it. These words were stitched onto the back of a lovingly created treasure that we received from the quilting ministry of River Ridge Covenant Church.
What difference does it make to say the words? Does it really matter?
Comfortably wrapping ourselves in the silent quilt of our memories slowly erodes the emotional and spiritual health of ourselves and of our family members. Much could be said about the cancerous power of ingratitude.
Did you know that "thank you" is the # 1 phrase used in successful relationships? Conversely, the toxic decision not to express our gratitude – comfortably wrapping ourselves in the silent quilt of our minds – slowly erodes the emotional and spiritual health of ourselves and of our family members. Much could be said about the cancerous power of ingratitude.
Practice Gratitude. It’s meant to be put into use, not prized and preserved. Put your feelings into gracious words.
Here are some creative ideas. Although you will feel hesitant, begin to exercise the muscle of saying thanks. Start where it’s easy – say the two words thank you to the clerk at Costco who folds the clothes, or to the parking lot attendant at the grocery store. You’ll likely hear them say four words in response – you made my day!
Be thankful, and give thanks. Thank people, and thank God. And Happy Thanks Giving.
Benediction of Blessing
May the emotional quilt of your memories give you great comfort and peace.
May you put your gratitude into practice by sharing it with someone who has blessed you, and thanking God for them also.
May you make someone’s day simply by expressing your appreciation.
Many thanks to the RRCC quilters who gave Linda and me two beautiful quilts! We are so grateful for you!
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All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version, NIV. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. TM