All things new, from whatever we bring to the table

My youngest daughter, YD, is asking me to write the story of my life. Why would anyone want to read all that depressing stuff? She says it could give hope to women going through dark valleys right now, to see how I have prevailed, how God has made goodness from my brokenness. I wasn’t convinced, until this past week, when I began a memory t-shirt quilt with my oldest daughter for my grandson’s birthday. OD had collected t-shirts spanning most of his life. We sorted through the shirts, looking for striking colors, interesting designs and logos, and outstanding memories.

I was uneasy cutting up perfectly good t-shirts. (I’m from the waste-not-want-not family. Of course, I saved the left-overs for rags.)

scraps from t shirts

Through most of my early life, I felt like those left-overs.

Torn, missing pieces, needing the impossible to be whole.


When we had enough, we cut and prepped the blocks, then lay them out to plan the design.

OD arranging blocks cropped
OD arranging blocks

As I cut and stitched, I felt the Lord showing me how he has snipped and stitched in my life, pressing and pinning and joining, during times I couldn’t feel his presence. Sometimes, only the pain.

But he was always there.

Always working.

Always creating.

After I sewed the blocks together the back was a mess.  Only threads and rough edges of seams, only snatches of color showing through.

quilt back
Quilt back

quilt back close up

I’m not a perfect quilter, by any means. But when I turned the fabric over, all those pieces of my grandson’s life came together, making what I hope he will enjoy.

I’d taken snippets of his life and stitched them together to make something altogether different. Cast-off shirts had become a beautiful quilt for his new room.

Quilt for Alex
Finished quilt

I cannot ignore the lesson whispered along with the whir of the sewing machine.

God is the perfect Creator, and his finished product, when I arrive before him in heaven, will be beautiful and whole. But even now, I bear the marks of the Creator, snatches of beauty, areas where I can bring blessing and love to others.

What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole. I Peter I:3-5 MSG 

I guess YD is right. I need to share it. Even those of us with memories we’d rather keep buried have a Creator ready to work us into something beautiful to bless those around us, as long as we’ll allow him to work. As long as we are willing to take up new thought patterns, trusting him with our lives.

Have you found that to be true for you?

Or do you think it’s better to let some things stay buried?

From a place of grief, anguish and joy

The last few weeks I’ve generally dropped from cyberspace. The days leading to the first anniversary of my mother’s death brought quietness and introspection, tons of emotion billowing over and surprising me. Since last fall I’d avoided the memorial website my daughter Tracey had set up. When she asked about continuing it, I spent several hours there, and cried.

With no recollection of what I had said, I watched my extemporaneous talk at the reception after Mom’s requiem. Right now so many are walking through the shadow of death themselves, or with others, I’d like to offer my little glimpse of peace that day as a gift of light.

It’s an amateur video, (and yes, cruel French teacher, I do swallow my vowels) but I hope you can make out the words and it blesses you.

My season of mourning and memories transitioned into several weeks of urgent intercession for a dear family pierced and torn up with the murder and untimely death (to us on earth) of a toddler. Personal pain from my little brother’s death, many years ago, intensified my desire to hold this family up.

To pray against the darkness.

Sometimes the pressure to intercede woke me, and kept me awake for hours at night. During the day I often felt drawn to pray amidst regular activities. At times it was so weighty I felt physical pain, and a complete energy drain.

One of my precious grandsons came for a week of Grammi Camp. His joy and the opportunity to love on him helped to balance me.

Pure, holy gift.

How can I mourn when he’s flying like a falcon?)

Falcon from Wild Kratts
Falcon from Wild Kratts

or spinning a web?

spider from Wild Kratts
spider from Wild Kratts

or looking for alligators?

spotting an alligator
spotting an alligator

or learning to body surf with Lily?


By the time I was called to help our son and his family move, the pressure to intercede constantly had lifted somewhat.

Last things in "Old house"
Last things in “Old house”
packed and in the car
packed and in the car
craft time
craft time

I cared for my precious granddaughters for eight days, with the little one sick from the second night on. If you have endured an earache, or a child with one, you know the the agony for all involved.

We had moments of tranquility.

Temporary relief in the tub
Temporary relief in the tub

Mostly, she was only relieved by being held. Struggling to eat zucchini spirals with only a fork reminded me of all the one-handed meals I ate while holding her father.

It also reminded me of the fact that faith and prayer do not guarantee happiness, healing, or even safety here on earth.

I circle back round to the truth.

The only guarantee on this side of the veil is that His grace is enough, heaven reaching down to us.

And we will be held.

Have you endured a season of deep pain, or been called to pray for another’s agony?

                                            (Photos from my cell phone.)

Pursuing the past, finding the future

Pursuing the past, finding the future

We drove southeast from Zürich toward the birthplace of Maria Tschanen Zimmerman, my great-grandmother. I’d hoped to find family tombstones, especially for her sister, Anna. My grandmother’s only expressed wish, unfulfilled, had been to visit Switzerland. After my mother’s death this year, I felt the need to link back to her grandmother’s land, especially since it is my middle daughter’s home, and the birthplace of two of my grandchildren.

By the time we reached Wohlen bei Bern, early winter darkness forced us to pull out flashlights. We stomped around the graveyard at Die Pfarrkirche, but all we found were fairly recent graves.

church at Wohlen bei Bern
church at Wohlen bei Bern

Inside the church, the boys and I were fascinated with the manger scene, loaded with woolly sheep.

Manger scene in church at Wohlen bei Bern, Switzerland
Manger scene in church at Wohlen bei Bern, Switzerland

We read that the church was founded in 1320.

Wohlen bei Bern Die Pfarrkirche
inside church looking toward the back
Ten Commandments from 1681
Ten Commandments from 1681

So why no old gravestones, the kind my older brother and his wife found throughout the U.S. to establish our family tree on our father’s side?

In a country rich with history, even pre-dating the Romans, it didn’t make sense.

After thoroughly covering every part of the cemetery, I stopped to listen to my daughter explain that, according to Swiss law, any graves over 100 years old are removed to make space for new ones. (No, we don’t know what happens to them.)

Finally, we chose a young cinnamon rose-bush near some Zimmerman and Tschanen graves to disperse a portion of Mom’s ashes. (Mom had been an avid gardener.)

Cinnamon Rose bush in Wohlen bei Bern churchyard
Cinnamon Rose bush in Wohlen bei Bern churchyard

Tracey and the boys sang “I Am His Child,” which Jeremy and Kyle had sung to Mom on their last visit in April – and to which she had responded with deep emotion and tears. (They also sang it at the reception after her Requiem.)

For days I was frustrated that I had not been able to find my ancestors’ tombs.

Yesterday, understanding dawned, and I sighed in relief.

empty manger
empty manger

Just like the empty manger, the empty cross, and the empty tomb where they had laid the body of Jesus, someday all our tombs will be empty.
The only thing that really matters is where we go from there.

“My purpose in writing is simply this: that you who believe in God’s Son will know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you have eternal life, the reality and not the illusion. And how bold and free we then become in his presence.” I John 5:13-14


sunrise over Schindellegi
sunrise over Schindellegi, Switzerland

Below is a partial clip of Jeremy and Kyle singing “I Am His Child” at the reception.