The Quilt Project

Day 7 and Day 9

When I was around 10 years old, my mom, an English as a second language teacher, headed up a Holocaust Quilt Project. Looking back, my perspective and my mom’s perspective of the project, at the time were very different. I remember glimpses of what was going on. The parts I deemed to be important and of course, as the facilitator, she had a more realistic version of what was actually happening. In preparation for this acceptance, I reached out to her to get clarification on my fussy memory.

Each square had a story. People were assigned to design and connect it to the bigger quilt. There were teams individually assigned to every square. My mom was facilitating the overall design of the entire quilt, the 12ft by 12ft wooden frame that would display the quilt, and the inscription to be sewn into the back of the quilt. Each piece and volunteer working together to pull off this monumental project. It was based on a family’s memories from being in the Holocaust. Both to honor the family and to memorialize what happened to them.


Think about that.

Memorialize the Holocaust. One of the most horrific and utterly inhumane times in our human history. Why would anyone decide this is something to design a quilt around? Or ever even want to remember? Let alone honor in any way.

As a kid, none of those deep questions even came to mind. I just remember the final project, the pride everyone seemed to have and how beautiful it was. Never mind the subject matter….

Now, as I stand before you, accepting this prestigious award, I have become intimately familiar with how much we emphasize the perception of the subject matter or substance of our lives. The nuts and bolts of who we are. And we strive so hard to determine which squares make the cut on the quilt of our lives.

The successes, the victories, the triumphs.

The graduations, the degrees.

The promotions, the upgrades.

The days we are killing it.

And the nights we SLAY just by entering the room.

These all make sense.

What do we do with the squares that don’t fit?

Or the squares we wish didn’t exist at all?

The bad…no good….horrible decisions.

The mistakes of epic proportion.

The senseless killing of 8 friends before age 18.

The heartbreak of losing a best friend to cancer.

The loss of family.

The slaughter of entire groups of people.

The racism, the sexism, the prejudice.

The regret of wasted time.

The pain of teenage pregnancy.

The abuse.

The death of marriages.

The delays of dreams.

The misdirected perception of love.

The self sabotaging behavior.

The weight of failure.

The fear.

Where do these squares belong? Surely, they don’t get a spot on the beautiful quilt. That wouldn’t make sense.

I submit to you, as I stand before you having truly recognized that ALL THINGS, ALL SQUARES work together for the GOOD.

Oh, how lovely it would be if we could determine what each square consisted of. And put it where WE wanted to put it. Surely, we know what would look the best when put on display. WE are the experts of our own lives…right? We KNOW the big picture.

Am I then saying that we have no control, and really it doesn’t matter what we do? We are mere pawns on the board?

It’s in our perspective. Because we are created in God’s image, we think we should be creating and controlling the squares. We have misunderstood our role on the quilt. In this life. How much different we would look at the quilt, NOT from the creator or owner of it—but through the eyes of the connoisseur. As a collaborator, or contributor. As an admirer.

The challenge is we take the call to authority and dominion to mean we get the ultimate say. We have creative license. Even though we say differently we our mouths—we subconsciously live as if WE get to play God’s role. We are the master quilter. It’s up to US to make it beautiful. We need to arrange the squares or SHREAD them if they don’t fit into the display. Or maybe try not to create “ugly” squares to begin with. That solves that. So we spend our entire lives trying to avoid the ugly squares or trying to make up for the ones already on the quilt. Making apologies for that particular square of the quilt. Trying to cover that side of the quilt up.

On the back of the Holocaust quilt was inscribed the Hebraic phrase, “Never Again.” On one hand, this beautiful quilt created and framed for all to see and on the other hand, the back inscribed with “Never Again.” This seemed contradictory, at the least, and hypocritical, at the most. The more I thought about it, it truly represents freedom. The ability to acknowledge the existence of something and place our declaration and destiny right over it.

Ahhh…so this is how we handle it. The “ugly squares.” Some squares of our lives are never to be repeated. And we would rather them not even be represented–but they are interwoven into who we are–to remove the square would be to remove thread of life. You get to declare on the back of that particular square “Never Again.” And you must. That puts it in its place, and allows us to move forward IN FREEDOM.

Just as my mom had a vision for the quilt. A piece of art—despite the substance of the squares, she knew what it would be. How she wanted to display it. To stand it up, for all to see.

I had to accept, Katie:

He is showing you off. He has created the frame to display your life. Take your position alongside the divine artist of your life. Become a connoisseur, a collaborator, an admirer and give up the burden of being the master quilter.

Each square has been building to this day. The quilt wouldn’t be right without any one of them. There would be gaping holes. No matter how we want to adjust the frame to fit only the squares we love–or the ones we think make us fierce–we can only play within the frame. Stop exhausting energy to reframe our lives, or go back and remove squares, it’s not our job.

Our lives have been divinely framed, magnificently designed, each square perfectly captured as it was meant to be. Woven with purpose, threaded by grace, faithfully timed and positioned in its rightful place, and entirely orchestrated by love.

Thank you for this award, this honor to speak before you.

How glorious it is to just stand back and admire the quilt.

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