Life is like a patchwork quilt in a dirty garden. It is messy, colorful, patched, and loved. It is memories, stories, livelihood, and time. It is turned and fluffed and hugged and clutched and drooled upon and soiled when thrown over dirt patches for picnics and nap time. Many of us children grew up with a patchwork quilt which we dragged places like Mother’s gardens to find a shady hiding spot beneath a large bush to consume spoonfuls of sugar or fists of melted chocolate from our pockets to eat in secret. We lived sticky, little, sinful lives seeing what we could get away with by wiping off what sugary remnants we could from our clothes especially the quilts before they hit the laundry baskets. Unfortunately, Mother often discovered we had been in the pantry again, and consequences would follow.
I’m nineteen now. Well, twenty in ten days. While some years have passed, some things do not pass with time. I still feel like that small, little, crouched-up thing burrowed in the bushes with my quilt, a book, and chocolate bar (purchased though). Towards the end of my freshman year, I found myself yet again beneath a tree with my nose in a book though my head swimming with memories of home. I longed for my Mother’s gardens, and hills, and woods that I knew, and I knew that it mattered to me and my family to return to the nest. Soon enough it happened.
Coming home from college was a purposeful, decisive, decision on my part for many reasons, but there were reasons to stay too. Reasons to stay at school included many benefits such as a fine work position. While reasons such as work persuaded me to stay, the reasons to come home far surpassed the reasons to stay: family, my church, and Vermont’s Green Mountains. Most of all, I wanted to realign myself to my upbringing. I knew I was not going to realign perfectly to the Kathryn that left last August. No one stays the same nor ought they to stay the same, for to stop changing is to stop growing. To stop growing is to stop loving. To stop loving is to stop living. (I might interject sometimes we need to love the same person over and over again and though we may not feel like we are living, the truth is we are still breathing just deeply and slowly). In coming home, I found the same structure of life. Like the pattern of a quilt—a house of eleven feels like a pattern of chaos but somehow order follows. This excellent structure by which my parents raised me allowed me to develop into a better version of myself. They raised me, and I chose to return to my roots—to that structure—to remember and once again go forth into the world to create my story upon a rich legacy in which I am proud to take part.
All that is to say, summer sprouted up from the ground announced by the flowers, but they have not all been daisies and lilies. The flowers I see are more like the pieced-together patch-work quilt and less like the quilts one finds on display in JcPenny’s. On my walks, I pick through wildflowers sprouting up among the thorns. I stumble over the rotting logs that I imagined away in my memory. I continuously trip over big boulders that I thought I removed from my backyard, and I fell once from our swing that I trusted all my years growing up tied secure on the branch above my head by my own hands. I have pricked my loved ones becoming the cause of grief like the rose bush that draws blood when the only intention of its care taker is to nourish it and cause it to blossom. I have in many ways forgotten my rightful place as daughter. Parents will be parents. Sons will be sons. Daughters will be daughters. I write about these skewed misconceptions towards work and life and rejoining the established family order. I write to uncover the overgrown garden paths once more. I pull out the weeds to sew my seeds. On top of these, I let seep my tears. Maybe in my expectations I thought the roses and daisies would just spring up into place. Coming home has required intentionality and work. Adjusting has not been easy despite the prep talks, the current talks, and the apologies, but I am already beginning to see my projects such as my garden and my quilt come together and come to life.
My struggles include finding out how I can be the humble rose bush that accepts the care of its caretaker so that it blossoms in its time and causes delight not pain.
Life is like a patchwork quilt. I start with some various pieces of fabric. I paw through my patterns, colors, and textures choosing intentionally reds like the poppies, yellows for summer sun, blues for family by the ocean, and greens for Vermont’s mountains. I organize as best I can despite the chaos around me, sorting, piling, and snipping. I have help. A sibling critiques. I sigh and say thank you. My mother aligns and realigns my squares like she helped edit and reedit my writing in High School that stretched across paper page after page. Then I start sewing. At first all I can see are the details of my work. Soon enough colors begin popping out of the fabric; the machine begins whirring; and my fingers and mind come together to finish the top spread. I see my mistakes. Not perfect, no, but a good reminder of my human nature. I remember that my life like my quilt is not perfect, but it is beautiful because it is excellent. May those who wrap themselves in the quilt realize too that life is not going to be perfect, but it can be beautiful if we let go of expectations, preconceived notions, and perfection.
I close imploring each of us to reflect on the following. What is beauty? How many millions of ways does our culture say that true beauty is perfection? How depressing would that be to live a life chasing after the wind? How miserable did I make my first few days back from college because I believed everything would be perfect at home?
Right now I still live trying to content myself with the fabric pieces handed to me. Sometimes we do not get to pick the piece—we just have to make do with what we have. Excellence is using what we have and making it beautiful. I have my days where I must humble myself and allow mothers to be mothers and daughters to be daughters. I must communicate often, and it is exhausting. My story may differ from others’. Someone else might work three part time jobs from six a.m. to ten p.m. They might be single parents raising three children. Another might be a post college graduate struggling to find their dream job. They might be a current college students absorbed in grades. They might be adults who want a better job, a happier home, a_________(fill in the blank). It’s all the same. Reasons for dissatisfaction with life are endless. Life is messy. It’s not perfect. It will never be perfect. But can be beautiful, and it can be excellent. Life is a never ending road of trial and error to a glorious finish. Redemption is Christ transplanting us from the dry desert to the fertile garden. Sanctification is letting Him pluck off our dead leaves to make way for sweet fruit.