A purposeful patchwork

This month I received an incredibly special gift, a quilt created by my 14-year-old daughter. I knew it was coming as Rachel and I picked out the fabric together, giving careful attention to color, style and texture. She provided me with weekly updates–from cutting to stitching to tying–during her school quilting class. There was literal blood (being stabbed by needles), sweat (meeting a deadline right before spring break ended) and tears (cutting fabric the wrong size) involved in the process.

When I was presented with this gift, Rachel was quick to point out that the end product was not perfect. But knowing the steps she went through to get it to this state made it even more meaningful.

At first glance, the bold colors as well as the massive size of the masterpiece caught my attention. But as I’ve had time to look more closely, I’ve noticed the subtle details on the patterns, the intricate designs, the complementary threads. It’s taken time to appreciate the complexity of what all is going on to make it not just a source of warmth, but a work of art.

Isn’t that how it is with people as well? We notice their bold statements, their physical appearance, the persona they display on the outside. But there is so much more going on inside of them – pieces of their personality, history, values and beliefs — that we only see upon closer examination. And all the varying segments fit together to make up a whole person intended to bring value to this world.

My quilt, this special piece of workmanship, has been a reminder of the uniqueness of each one of us. It represents all the aspects that make up a person – their personality traits, values, experiences, work history, family background and more. It encompasses all the places and relationships in which we find our identity.

Back in college I was introduced to the Myers-Briggs personality test, and I’ve been fascinated ever since with resources that help me learn more about myself. Discoveries made by learning about The Five Love Languages, The Enneagram, and The Four Tendencies have helped broaden my perspective on myself and those I relate to. But these tools are just that–tools to help recognize how I (and others) may be wired.

The real work has been spending time identifying what brings direction and passion to my life. It’s embracing the values that quietly influence how I live. Some of those values are simplicity and stability, generosity and gratitude. It also includes a passion for learning (i.e. the love for books) and looking for life lessons in everyday encounters.

There are traits and part of my journey I’ve been ashamed of at times. I’ve tried to hide these experiences from others, but I’ve come to realize they are part of my story for a reason. I’m a recovering perfectionist and people pleaser. I’m a homebody with agoraphobic tendencies who has also struggled with anxiety. While my faith in God has rarely wavered, my relationship with His Church has been tense at times, giving me some of my highest highs and lowest lows.

But that faith, as well as my relationships with family and close friends, are the basis for my living. Going on a hike or watching a baseball game with my “home team” is what brings me great joy. Being able to express my need for rest and solitude to my family is freeing. Sharing highlights from a life-changing book or indulging in deep conversation with a friend is profoundly meaningful for my soul. They are the backing to my quilt, so to say, that keeps it all together.

That’s the beauty of each of us. Our lives were designed, piece by piece, for some purpose, and at the very basic level, to be enjoyed and bring joy to others. But it often takes time and persistence to make sense of how it’s all stitched together. It it is a grueling process, just as Rachel discovered, but the finished product is even more beautiful because of the effort.

Life is a series of discoveries about self as well as others. I will continue to strive to unravel the essence of who I was created to be. Because we must appreciate and accept ourselves before we can wholeheartedly love others.

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The following books and resources have provided insight on how I’m wired as well as an understanding of those in my circle of relationships. Just for fun, I’ve included my “type” (for those that apply) in parenthesis.

Myers-Briggs personality type (INFJ)

The Five Love Languages (acts of service, words of affirmation)

The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile (Type 1-Reformer, with a Type 2 wing-Helper)

The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin (Upholder)

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture by Adam S. McHugh

Out of Sorts by Sarah Bessey

I would love to hear what books or tools have helped you discover more about yourself. Feel free to comment below!

Listening

For nearly 13 years, I’ve had in my possession a particular rock. Faded letters are written in silver on the smooth, gray surface – they spell the word, “Listen.”

Since receiving it at a conference years ago, the oval-shaped stone has traveled in my purse, sat on the kitchen window ledge, resided on my nightstand. It has survived spring cleanings, house purges and many moves. It currently is nestled in a bowl on my dresser, right next to where I place my wedding ring each evening. Continue reading “Listening”

On participation and celebration

The gym was loud and crowded and a bit chaotic. High school students of all shapes, sizes and skill levels took to the court to warm up and wave at those watching in the bleachers.

My oldest daughter was among the group on the floor as part of the Unified basketball league, a program that combines Special Olympics athletes with partners for competition against other high school teams. Continue reading “On participation and celebration”