It is difficult to experience two opposite emotions simultaneously.
I’m reminded of the classic Mary Tyler Moore TV episode featuring the death of Chuckles the Clown – where Mary can’t help but laugh uncontrollably during the funeral. She grieves the loss of her television co-worker, but she is also overcome by happy memories of the joy he brought.
My recent journey home to spend time with family was – as journeys often are – a time filled with both laughter and tears.
Reuniting with my two sisters and celebrating Mother’s Day and Mama’s 94th Birthday brought on hours and hours of family stories, memories, and a deliberate recounting of God’s faithfulness. In the middle of the visit my sisters and I went to the beach for three days to rest and reconnect. We laughed, finished each other’s sentences, took hundreds of photos, and listened to the tape recordings of our lives (Daddy once curated a cassette reel for each of us spanning 30 years.)
One night I was sitting in the hotel room while Cathy and Susan dressed for dinner. I had just listened to my 6-year-old self proudly perform from my very first reading book, “Come and Eat” (which was nothing if not prophetic.) Then, all of a sudden the year was 1979 just before I left for Thailand, and the cassette featured me singing “Blue Christmas” with Daddy on vocals and harmonica, Glen on the guitar.
My voice is young and clear (and pretty darn good, actually) but it is the sound of Daddy’s strong and comforting voice that causes me to collapse in a puddle of tears. Even as I have missed him for more than a decade, I am able to thank God for every time he spoke or sang words of blessing into my life. All I can think is that I am the most blessed of daughters.
We girls spent most all of our visit with our sweet Mama. She is increasingly frail and weary of her constant battle against chronic pain. But while we were there, this soul strong woman drew upon deep strength and rallied for a few special outings with her daughters. Joy!
However, sometimes pain won.
And we who love her most feel utterly helpless to fix the situation. So, we gathered around and held hands, shared our words and our stories. We sang and prayed over her. And sometimes we wept together. But never without hope. Because we believe that God will make all things beautiful in His time.
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing. [God] has made everything beautiful in its time.Ecclesiastes 3.1-5, 10
On Mama and Daddy’s 50th Wedding Anniversary back in 1999 I dedicated my then-new book “Quilts from Heaven” to them. One of the quilt patterns I wrote about in that book is “Sunshine and Shadow.” It is a beautiful combination of both dark cloth and pieces of bright, colorful fabric, interspersed together. Surprisingly, it is the very contrast of the two extremes that allows the true beauty to emerge in this fabric art.
Our lives also include bright and dark – both sunshine and shadow.
And God – the Master Quilter – indeed takes all the scraps and pieces (including the ones we’d rather omit – struggle, regret, failure, pain) and weaves them together into a beautiful pattern of depth, color, and texture. While we are in the midst of daily living, it’s hard to comprehend what the finished masterpiece will look like – we are just so busy concentrating on the immediate square of the moment. And then one day, we turn around and time has passed ever so swiftly…
Mama’s life quilt is vast, so beautiful, and perhaps nearer completion than I would hope.
Perhaps that’s why Douglas McKelvey’s prayer spoke to me so tenderly today: “Your designs, O Lord, extend beyond our vision. In the mystery of your grace you have forever knit our lives. And for this we thank and praise you. Father of All – for the irreplaceable gift of this your child, so loved by us in our shared pilgrimage. Your gifts, O God, are gracious and good. Now guide us tenderly, Jesus, that journeying together this last sweet mile, we might be present to love and to serve one another in thoughtful humility and in a dignity of grace, our right grief mingling freely with the leavening hope of eternal glory. Give grace, most merciful Father. Give grace, O Lord of love. Amen.”from “Every Moment Holy, Volume II”
It has been 23 years since I first wrote metaphorically of God piecing together the parables of our lives into a patchwork of beauty and meaning. But I believe these words from the prologue of “Quilts from Heaven” still ring true:
Pieces of My Quilt
If quilts could talk I’d like to think I’d hear just what they’d say, “I’ll hold you close within my folds and wipe your tears away. I’ll keep you warm and give you strength to face another day.” If quilts could talk…
If quilts could sing I’d like to think I’d recognize each tune, The lullaby or funeral dirge or wedding march in June. Both sweet and haunting melodies I’d listen to them croon. If quilts could sing…
If quilts could write I’d like to think I’d read the words they’d pen, Of life and love and motherhood, of mystery without end. And, oh the drama they could share of everywhere they’d been. If quilts could write…
If quilts could pray I’d like to think I’d feel each heartfelt prayer Of thankfulness or great concern for those within their care; Petitions to a loving God – the One who’s always there. If quilts could pray…
The quilt of my own life Finds voice to talk, sing, write, and pray, As it weaves a hundred stories in its own eclectic way. And with each stitch of grace and hope my legacy is built; All fragments finally made a whole… the pieces of my quilt.
~ Lucinda Secrest McDowell, 1998
Oh friend, are you struggling with conflicting emotions right now? A roller coaster up and down of joy and pain? There is room in your heart for them to dwell together. Draw near to the One who sings comfort over you and wraps you in the warmth of His never-ending love.
You are held.
May the grace of Christ, the love of God, and the friendship of the Holy Spirit bring you comfort and strength, Lucinda
“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”
©2021 Lucinda Secrest McDowell www.LucindaSecrestMcDowell.com
Lucinda Secrest McDowell is a storyteller and seasoned mentor who engages both heart and mind while “Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity & Strength.” She has authored 15 books including “Soul Strong – 7 Keys to a Vibrant Life” and “Life-Giving Choices – 60 Days to What Matters Most.” She writes from “Sunnyside” cottage in New England and shares encouraging words at LucindaSecrestMcDowell.com