The Unmade Bed

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I am reading Christine Valters Paintner’s latest book, Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice and am marking up the book with stars, underlines, and circled words as I begin to shift my understanding of photography. In the introduction she writes: “Photography as a spiritual practice combines the active art of image-receiving with the contemplative nature and open-heartedness of prayer.” (p. 3)

In chapter 1, Christine suggests we take 50 photos of one thing. “Choose an object from your everyday life. It could be anything that you engage with daily but that often falls under your radar of real attention …become curious about this object and see if you can make fifty images of it.”

I chose our unmade bed (perhaps a cheeky choice). I took 50 photos of it and I became curious of how the light and shadows might be seen on the sheets and quilt. I was surprised by my emotional responses to the images as I uploaded them later to my laptop. Here is a sampling:

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I saw our bed as a place of life, safety, comfort, intimacy, and love. This is the place where I feel safest, secure in Kevin’s love and fidelity.  The unmade-ness of the bed reveals our life together.

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This is the second quilt I made, in the late 1990s. I fell in love with colors in both the printed fabric and the batik fabrics when I first saw them together in the local quilt store in Goshen. I had enormous fun wandering amongst the fabrics, pulling bolts from their snuggled companions, and place them with the other fabrics, seeing if they will mix well together.  I was so excited to play with these fabrics and I had great fun piecing this quilt together.

 

IMG_0458I see how the colors are beginning to fade by use and sunlight. Although the colors have lost their vibrancy I still love them.  And I still love the sunflowers—one of my favorite flowers.

 

IMG_0463I was unaware of how worn the quilt is getting from daily use as I see the fraying of the binding. The fraying is a sign of love to me. Love for the quilt, love in the bed.

 

IMG_0466I didn’t intend to photograph my shoes beside the bed but I am delighted to see them. A sign of life and life beyond the bed.

 

IMG_0475Lastly, Kevin’s shirt discarded onto the bed late in the day after he had worked hard in the backyard. Another sign of life.

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Christine will be writing a guest post for this blog later this week and I will be giving away one copy of her book.  Be sure to check back for Christine’s wisdom and a chance to receive her latest book!

Mr. Rogers and Quilts

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The quilt top was done. I finished it months ago. The back was also finished. But I didn’t like the batting I bought to use between the quilt top and back. And I couldn’t decide on a design or pattern to quilt everything together. So the parts of the quilt stayed draped over the stairwell, taunting me every time I opened the door to my sewing room.

I was stuck. I was creatively blocked for months.

The quilt was made for my youngest niece as she transitioned from a crib to a “big girl bed.” I wondered if I would finish the quilt in time for her to move into a college dorm. I felt terrible about how long the quilt was taking and I was feeling increasing stuck. I couldn’t work on other sewing. My sewing creativity was jammed and bound up in that quilt.

I wanted to give the quilt to my niece and her parents when I visited my family in early March. And my frustration was spiking as the date of my trip approached.

I began to pray about the situation (finally). I prayed about being stuck and unable to find a way to resolve my dilemma. Then the story of Mr. Rogers “look for the helpers” came to mind.

“Look for the helpers.”

And I understood that I need to hire someone else to quilt it. I needed help to maneuver out of my creative block. So I did.

I took the quilt top and back to a local quilting shop and hired the owner to quilt everything together. She suggested a design and a different batting and I knew this was the way to go. As I walked out of the shop, I felt my shoulders drop and I breathed a deep sigh of relief.

Two weeks later I picked up my quilt—quilted and bound—to deliver to my niece. I’m not sure how much she likes it but my sister and brother-in-law do!

Quilt front with my niece. Photo by Kevin Driedger.

Quilt front with my niece. Photo by Kevin Driedger.

Quilt back with my niece.Photo by Kevin Driedger.

Quilt back with my niece.
Photo by Kevin Driedger.

I met with my spiritual director just before I picked up the quilt and we talked about my “look for the helpers” revelation. She suggested this was a move toward freedom for me. Rather than me insisting that I do it all, I chose to let others assist me. She suggested this is a journey from inner bondage to inner freedom.

I’m still pondering this. And, I’m praying a new prayer: “God, let me be free.”

And, one answer to that prayer is finding the helpers.

*The quilt pattern was originally posted on the Film in the Fridge blog.

Creating quilts for children

“Our praying and creating hands become God’s resource as we determine how to embody what we are experiencing through the cloth.”
—Susan Towner-Larsen
and Barbara Brewer Davis,
With Sacred Threads: Quilting
and the Spiritual Life
, p. 98

 

Last summer a dear friend asked me to make quilts for her two daughters using the baby clothes she had saved. She handed over two large plastic containers filled with sweet baby dresses, cute onesies, and charming knitted caps. As I sorted through the bins I wondered what I could do with these clothes: how can I make a quilt for each of the girls?

I decided to cut up the adorable clothes into 2.5” squares. I first traced squares on the various clothes then cut them out using scissors rather than my favorite cutting tool, a rotary cutter.

As I worked with these clothes I remembered each girl as a baby. I met each girl shortly after they were born and leaning over the hospital bassinet to stroke their heads and whisper a blessing: “We are so glad you are here. We’ve been waiting a long time for you and here you are! We are so happy!  You ____, are beloved and blessed child of God.”  (I try to whisper this each time I meet a new baby. It’s an idea I got from my friend Susan who is a labor and delivery nurse).

And during my work recalled how the girls have grown from babies to elementary school children, each with her own distinct personality. I also held the entire family in my heart, grateful four our friendship and the joy I experience being with them.

As I assembled the quilts I imagined how the girls might use them—reading books under the quilts, snuggled under them in the winter, and, maybe, if the quilts are still in shape, taking the quilts with them to college.

I like to hand-sew the bindings as a final way of handling the quilt and praying that the recipients will experience God’s loving embrace when they are using the quilt. My hope is that my loving energy will be transferred onto the quilt and love will be felt by the quilt owner.

One of the quilts is pictured above–here’s the other one. I made three columns of three squares of those baby clothes but never did incorporate those charming knitted caps! When my friend came to pick the quilts up she burst into tears when she saw them.  I took it as a sign that she liked them.

Recently, my friend Sarah posted a picture on Facebook of her husband and their two children reading together with a quilt over them. It was a quilt I made when Sarah was pregnant with her first child and it was a joy to sew together. I prayed for Sarah and her husband Matt as I sewed the squares together—I prayed for a healthy pregnancy, a safe delivery for Sarah, and for wisdom for both of them as new parents. I knew Sarah and Matt well as I officiated their wedding and worked with them in premarital counseling. And because of this experience I could tenderly carry them in my as I sewed.

Matthew, Aaron and Joan under quilt. Photo by Sarah, 12/2011

When I contacted Sarah for permission to use the photo she said her son continues to sleep with the quilt and used it a lot. This makes me happy!

As I write this, the fabric for my two-year-old niece is in the washing machine. I hope to begin working on the quilt this week and finish it before my visit to California in early March.

“Playing with cloth to birth a new design can be an act of prayer. When one is aware that the Divine is guiding the process of creation at every step, there is a profound sense of a partnership, a Guiding Hand, and a readiness to receive a magnificent message from the Holy Other. Our praying and creating hands become God’s resource as we determine how to embody what we are experience though the cloth patches.”–ibid