Grazie, Signore

Amadeus was a remarkable film centered on two powerful and contrasting figures: Antonio Salieri, court composer to the Austrian emperor, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, a brash and conceited young genius. “Someone described his life as wine, women, and song. And he didn’t sing much.” The limited, uninspired Salieri lives with a raging jealousy for the limitless, God-given talent of Mozart. Yet after every laborious score that he writes, Salieri whispers, “Grazie, Signore.” Thank you, Lord. This song of Salieri lies at the heart of our response to the graciousness of God and the gospel of grace.
Grazie, Signore, for Your lips twisted in love to accommodate my sinful self; for judging me not by my shabby good deeds but by Your love that is Your gift to me; for Your unbearable forgiveness and infinite patience with me; for other people who have greater gifts than mine; and for the honesty to acknowledge that I am a ragamuffin. When the final curtain falls and You summon me home, may my last whispered word on earth be the wholehearted cry, “Grazie, Signore.”

IMG_0383My sweetie and I often get to the Church about 30 or so minutes before the start of Mass. It’s a time to pause, reflect, get ready for the beauty unfolding around us. I’ve been reading, savoring, Brennan Manning’s The Ragamuffin Gospel on and off for months. As I opened to the dog eared page and read this passage. I left the page marked ready to read once again. I became so engrossed in the next chapter that putting the book down at the beginning of Mass was challenging.
Brennan shares a story of one of his experience in a rehab center for his alcohol abuse. The crux of the story: there was a man who, when he looked at his daughter knew something wasn’t right and somehow he was responsible however couldn’t quite think of why, the memory wasn’t there. The man’s wife was called during a therapy session (with full permissions granted) she explained that after a successful Christmas father/daughter shopping trip to get her present the man stopped at a local bar, saying to his daughter he’d be right out, leaving the car running. Long story short the young girl ended up with frostbite, having to have surgery as a result, and lost most if not all of her hearing. The man did not remember this. At. All. It was in the hearing of this from his wife, while he was sober and in a therapeutic environment that his life changed. He needed to hear about the damage his abuse of alcohol caused at home.

fantastic art version 2There are things in our quilting life that can and do prevent us from growing or seeing our own progress. Jealousy and an unwillingness to see/admit what’s going on in our own work. I know and own that at some point in my quilting life I wanted to be just like “name quilting rock star here” and I know and own that at some point I said to probably several quilting rock stars that I wanted to be just like them in my quilting. I also know that at some point, I recognized that what I thought I wanted wasn’t to be like them or mimic their work I wanted their skill to do my own work. Upon that realization how I practiced changed, my quilting changed, and I changed. I made a conscious decision to Not be Jealous of other peoples work. This freed me to go ahead and discover what my own quilting would look like. It also freed me to appreciate the hard work that got these particular quilting stars to their particular skill level and style. Jealousy occasionally creeps, we have a discussion, I make some decision and move on.
I was rattled when a student said they wanted to be just like me, to do what I do. On the one hand I get it, on the other, as a teacher I wanted said student to get that to be like me, is to quilt, quilt, quilt; to see the value in practicing with the “good stuff”, to listen to where the spirit of creativity is taking you; to see your mistakes as learning opportunities; to learn to know your tools: machine, fabric, batting, thread, needles well enough to learn the problems. In my classroom you’ll get the machine/thread/needles component for sure.

Then there is the whole seeing component. How do we see our work as quilters? (Note: I keep referring to our quilt making as work – our quilt making is the environment where we are learning and growing; magazine, classes, blogs, tutorials, websites are the places where we go get the information to hone our quilt making skills.) We can see the flaws in our work as that 6″ space between our nose and the quilt gives us the optimal view for seeing the aforementioned flaws. Often our response to the flaws is that it’s just all crap and therefore not worthy of public consumption. When we show our work (quilts) to others they will praise the beauty they see however, they must be just blowing smoke up our backsides because, flaws. This view, this seeing, seriously inhibits our ability to take our work where we’d like it to grow. Yes, there are flaws in our work. There are things that we would like to be better but there are two things to view, to see, differently: 1) what is the beauty they see, can we learn to appreciate the beauty in our own work; and 2) okay there are flaws but what can they show us, how do these mistakes/missteps show us how to do something differently? How do these become stepping stones rather than stumbling blocks?

Antonio Salieri became court composer to the Austrian emperor, he clearly had some skill, mad skills. Jealousy was powerful in terms of how he viewed himself and his work. At the end of the day 1) he kept working and 2) he always thanked God. Jealousy is that “Just” I long to get rid of in the quilting world. It’s Just a quilt; it’s Just machine quilted; it’s Just hand quilted; it’s just, just just. Here’s where I am, here’s what I want to be, here’s what I’m doing to get there.

The man Brennan mentioned recognized how destructive and damaging his behavior became in his life and made some serious changes. He owned it. In owning it the healing started, he was able to accept God’s Mercy and begin to love his family. While I don’t know the rest of the story (what happened after he got home). We can learn to be merciful to our self. We can learn to accept that mistakes are part of the process. We can admit that the people that we long to be like have worked damn hard to get where they are. That if we want to be there that we’re going to, like this guy, do the work.

And here’s the thing if you love making quilts for the sheer joy of making and giving them…own that. Accept that the quilts will be imperfect and LOVED for the gift of your heart that they are. If you have no desire to be a competitive quilter don’t compare your work to the competitive quilters. That comparison causes much more trouble than necessary. Recognize that the value of your quilts is not in the money spent, the ribbons won, none of that…the value of the quilts is your heart. And your heart is generous and that is priceless. Your value is in that you are a Child of God.

Grazie, Signore for the gift of quilting may I use this gift to honor You.


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