Forty Days of Prayer for Quilters Day 25: Beauty

Photo Credit: Jeanie Sumrall-Ajero, friend, photographer, quilter, seer of great beauty

Here in Texas this last week has been challenging at best complete with near zero temps, below zero wind chill, ice, snow, rolling power outages, and/or blackouts for days. We pray for those who’ve lost their lives, the families who grieve, those who’ve lost homes, and are struggling to eat. Many of our local Ordinaries (Bishops) have given dispensation from Ash Wednesday through Friday from the obligation to fast and abstain from meat. I would not be surprised if the dispensation extends, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.

This isn’t the first natural disaster I’ve lived through in different parts of the country and I’m certain it won’t be my last. Those often hit hardest in these natural disasters are those who experience material poverty and are without the resources to stock up, relocate. If you are so inclined and have the resources any Catholic Charities office or St Vincent de Paul will put donations to good use and are boots on the ground long after the major recovery has happened.

Jeanie and I met on the set of Quilting Arts TV in 2009 while we were both taping for the 500 series. We stayed in touch and have worked together over the years. She’s moved into both fabric design and photography I’m not entirely certain which came first. What I do know is both photography and fabric are extension of great beauty. The other day she posted the image above and in some way expressed some guilt for posting this when we in Texas and other ares of the country are in a deep freeze and particularly in Texas we’re experiencing blackouts, whether extended or rolling, water problems from frozen and burst pipes to needing to boil water to brush our teeth, and record snowfall, near zero temps with wind chill well below zero. My thought to her in this moment is, “we need beauty”.

Bishop Barron has made beauty, both physical and intellectual beauty part of the mission of Word on Fire. Jeanie’s photo of the frozen bubble on the red bracelet caught my breath, it was and is a bright spot personally in the midst of a hard week and a hard season of life. Another blogger is at the southern rim of the Grand Canyon, images never do this justice, nor do photos of the grandeur of the Rockies, or sunrise at the Atlantic, or the BIG sunrises I get to see out my front door here in TX.

Sometimes we have a downright difficult time seeing beauty, the beauty right in front of us, because our hearts and minds are burdened with experiences that are out of our control. Sometimes this is a direct result of horrific things happening to us personally, and sometimes its natural disasters like this. I know personally I have a hard time seeing who I am and what I do as something beautiful precisely because of experiences in my own life. As we begin to thaw out from this deep freeze, and really get a handle on this disaster I can tel you that I’ve watched the beauty that exists in human beings caring for one another through this. It is the same thing that happened on 9/11 when the Twin Towers fell and our world was rocked, part of the beauty of the New York City skyline forever changed. People helping people.

We learned of a tween boy who lost his life from hypothermia, and a mom and little one who lost their lives from asphyxiation trying to keep her little one warm in the car, in the garage. These families will struggle with this forever.

Over the last couple of years I’ve learned to know Leticia Ochoa Adams and Caralyn of Beauty Beyond Bones. Both of these women have lived through incredibly painful experiences, Leticia’s son Anthony completed suicide and Caralyn lived through an eating disorder (please be advised that her blog can be triggering). With both of these women there is great beauty, there is a reliance on God our loving Father that has transformed both of them. Leticia has in so many ways shared openly the grieving process, how painful it is – still, and how to learn to live through it. Caralyn speaks of the healing process from the eating disorder in all it’s painful ugliness and how she’s learned to live and has experienced deeply bodily healing.

Personally quilting and writing have allowed me to open up, to become vulnerable, to share some painful experiences and share the beauty of the making, the entering into my own life, to see that it is a process not a one and done moment. I didn’t get good at machine quilting in 20 minutes. I got good at machine quilting and writing by doing the work, by sitting at the machine and stitching, learning how to adjust tension and by sitting at my computer and writing and writing and doubting and checking with an editor and still having doubts. But still I quilt and still I write.

I’ve also placed myself at the beginning of learning once again by learning the long arm and learning how to edit video. Oh I can tell you the thoughts about myself right now about how much I suck are P A I N F U L. That said I’m also learning again and I like being in that place. I like remembering that this is a process and not a one and done event. That there is an opportunity to learn and grow through this.

Cleaning up from this mess here in TX isn’t going to be a straight line. We’re going to take a couple of steps forward and probably fall back on our collective asses more than once as the power grid gets back up to capacity, the water starts flowing again, homes are repaired and rebuilt and communities work together. I’m certain there will be changes coming in our elected leadership over the next several years, as well as making sure our power grid can handle this in the future.

Like Jeanie shares beauty in photography and fabric, Leticia and Caralyn share the gift of beauty from great pain in their writing and in their living, I share beauty in machine quilting, out loud, recklessly using color to create something beautiful. Like Jeanie has images she doesn’t share or aren’t quite how she envisioned; like Leticia and Caralyn have painful experiences they don’t share I have those moments, places in my quilts, hard times that I don’t share. They do however, provide the depth of experiences that allow me to see great beauty. To appreciate it in the midst of difficult times, to trust that that little bright spot I see isn’t a train coming for me, it’s the candle providing light for the path I’m on.

We are in Lent where Catholics and other Christians enter into the forty day fast, just as Jesus did before beginning his public ministry. I am going to do my very best to practice what I can in the midst of this mess. I’m also admitting that I’m a bit of a mess that is in need of work, a process of healing. I know too that just like the clean up this is messy, just like learning to quilt is messy, learning to edit video is messy, learning to write is messy. I do know this, there is great Beauty, God is Good.

God bless,


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