A Lesson in Holes: My Finished Seashell Banner

A few years ago I began sewing my seashells with holes in them to this linen seashell banner.  I’ve written here and here about how I love these simple, ordinary shells.  Especially shells with holes.  After years of adding one here and there, my banner is covered in beautiful shells found on the beach.  Each one of them came from the same 1.5 mile stretch of beach where we spend time every summer, collected over years.  So here it is, my finished seashell banner.

The holes were there when I found them.  Actually, the holes represent their undoing.  The telltale hole is evidence of a drilling predator, which drilled the hole and ate the soft flesh inside, leaving the shell empty.  At some point, it washed ashore.  Unconsiously, my eyes now spot shells with holes faster than anything else on the beach.  That hole was the end of the story; but it’s the hole that makes it useful to me.

I think life is like that.  A hard thing comes along, drills into us, eats us up inside.  It leaves a mark, a hole, evidence that we’re flawed.  But the very thing that appears to be our undoing, can also be our making!  I look at these ordinary, flawed objects, and I see beauty, survival, grit.  Did you know that the older the shell is, the more white it becomes?  I look at these shells and see me, my journey as a mother.  I see my undoing and my making.

So I’ve slowly filled all the space with rows of shells, organized by size, color, type.  Each one so unique.  Look closely and you’ll never find a duplicate.  These shells I’ve collected for years are now hanging on my wall next to my study desk.  They remind me daily that my holes actually make me more useful, more relatable, more compassionate.  They are part of me and it’s ok to have been changed by them.  In fact, they’ve made me better, even if I look more flawed.  I treasure my finished seashell banner, full of memories and hope.  

So many walks along the beach represented here, plus a reminder of my worth.  This was a rewarding project.  I wonder what I’ll do next with my shells…. time to start brainstorming!

Jennifer

 

A Wasted Season Redeemed {Easter Thoughts}

You could argue that Utah’s weather cycled through all four seasons in a week, including two rounds of snow and freezing temperatures.  We need the moisture desperately, but the timing…. is hard.  A week ago I took a little walk around my beloved cherry tree to see the buds beginning to bloom.  But now, when we should have a show of lovely white blossoms, the tree already looks brown.  A wasted season, it seems.

I was sick last week.  A wasted week.

But today is Easter and we’re back to spring, so with the sun shining and blue skies overhead I wandered outside to see what survived the cold.  My peonies are coming in well, most of the tulips survived.  My honeysuckle looks dead, and the weeds are thriving as usual.  Honestly, my yard suffers from neglect and dearly needs my attention.  A wasted yard, perhaps.  But while my walk prompted plenty of guilt, I also had to admit that there are some beautiful things happening there.  Beauty I don’t deserve, but which is there for my enjoyment.  A gift.

I had the thought that I should return to the cherry tree in spite of its color.  To my surprise, a sound I’ve not heard for years greeted me:  the hum of hundreds of bees.  

In spite of brown blossoms that froze, others had boomed after the storm.  And where the blossoms seemed lost, the bees were at work.  Undeterred by the wilting brown, they even seemed to prefer the “wasted” blooms over the fresh white ones.

I circled the tree with tears in my eyes.  My own little Easter miracle, it seems, with a beautiful lesson for me: a wasted season redeemed.  The scriptures teach that all things testify of Christ.  Today I witnessed that testimony in the form of bees and cherry blossoms.  Because of Him, our brown, frozen, spent blossoms can still bring fruit.  

So many parts of my life are barren of the fruit I expected years ago.  Yet, haply, looking back today, I see Jesus Christ at work.  I see brown useless blossoms that have yielded good things:  humility, compassion, patience, and faith.  I am better for it.  The fruit has been years in coming, and even now isn’t ready to harvest.  But my wasted season is being redeemed.

This is my Easter witness to you:  whatever is broken, frozen, wasted in your life can be healed and used for good through Jesus Christ.  Just as the bees find my brown blossoms worth pollinating, so He finds you worth saving.  Such a lovely message, delivered by bees and cherry blossoms.

Happy Easter!

More Practice

My sister shared this quote by Kurt Vonnegut with me recently:  “To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow.  So do it.”   Don’t you love that?  I can attest to it’s truth.   I got more practice at my art recently while teaching a few classes at Sew Simply Stitched, a quilt retreat in Vernal Utah.  More practice, specifically, with my favorite quilt block of all time:  the lone star.

lone star block with pink background

This star is my Lone Star Tree Skirt pattern.  I added triangles to four corners to square it up and frame the octagon, and a simple border.  It’s not finished; I will add more to this one eventually.   This lone star was in bits and pieces to use as samples in class and I didn’t want to leave it sitting, so I sewed it together and now I can look at it while I decide what direction it needs to go.

Lots of practice has made the lone star a simple make for me, but I try to do something slightly different every time so that element of MORE practice, more soul-growing and creativity-stretching experience can come from it.  My emotional connection to my quilts, their color, design, EVERYTHING, is what keeps me quilting.  Exploring this world of textiles, or practicing the art, is my favorite part of the experience.  I love it more than the quilts themselves.  And I love encouraging others to engage more purposefully in the process.

“To practice any art”.  Those are great words, because ultimately that’s what we do.  We practice, improve, and practice some  more.  It’s not about the perfection of a project; after all, the word “perfect” has little or nothing to do with art.  But it’s in the practicing that we grow, come alive a little more, learn new things about ourselves, our tools, the world around us.  I’m thinking it’s excellent advice for life, too.  This week I’m going to practice the art of living and creating more thoughtfully.  

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