Quilts. There is something quite fascinating about these works of art. I’m not talking about cookie-cutter quilts, mass-produced and all the same. I’m talking about the real quilts — the ones pieced together slowly over time.

These quilts are as varied as grasses in the fields with many shapes, sizes, and designs. Some explode in color, some with geometry. Some border on fanciful with names like “Chimneys & Cornerstones”, “Rail Fence”, and the “Rocky Mountain Chain. Some follow no set pattern at all, but are just pieced together in a what seems to be a random fashion.

To me, most quilts are beautiful.

My mother made a quilt for me when I was a child. I remember her cutting out the pieces one by one, most in the shapes of leaves. When that was done, she put them together in a pattern — just so — and then stitched them together into blocks.

The blocks were joined together with a border and then the quilt top was pinned to the batting and a backing. Finally, she put it all into a quilting frame set up in her bedroom.

The frame was bulky, as I remember it, and there was some novelty at seeing the quilt stretched across the frame. It was then that the process of stitching occurred. There was a slow, rhythmic pace to it, this joining together of separate pieces. There were times of silence and times we’d spend an afternoon talking around that quilt. I remembered being allowed to make some stitches too.

Today, when I pull out the quilt, what I remember most is the joy of watching it all come together and the wonderful time spent with my mama.

I still use my quilt from time to time — though the quilt ages as I do and now there are worn areas. I treat it with care. But still — even these 40 years later — the colors are crisp and the quilt feels comfortable and as if I am wrapped in a hug.

I brought the quilt out a couple of weeks ago to show to one of my daughters and I had a chance to talk with her about life.

I believe that our lives are like quilts. There are all sorts of experiences and challenges that occur as we move through our path. Each experience is a piece of the quilt — some pieces are part of the core design, some join together to make the border, some play important though hidden roles as the backing and the batting.

Some of the stitches in our quilts are wonderfully strong, each stitch perfect and whole. Some blocks aren’t quite matched around the edges or are missing a few stitches. There are likely elements to our quilt that we don’t like — imperfections and squares we wish we could remove. But to do so would leave a hole in our quilt.

You see, it takes all the pieces to make a whole quilt. Even the mistakes are part of the design and the beauty, once we spread that quilt out.

Like quilts, there are some parts of our lives that are perfect and, like quilts, there are parts of our lives that are not. Taken together though, all the pieces make a pattern, a living work of art. So perhaps — for this reason alone — we should show grace to ourselves and grace to others and look for the beauty in the quilt.

Tina Bartleson is the executive director of the Exchange Club Family Resource Center, which provides in-home parent education and mentoring to families with children 0-12 years. She has 29 years experience working with families and may be contacted through www.exchangeclubfrc.org.

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