Sewn Together

My grandmother was an excellent seamstress. She excelled at almost every craft she touched, but her quilts were legendary. I always remember them hanging in her sewing room/guest room when we would visit. My sister and I would spend hours staring at her glass top cabinet filled with sewing odds and ends, searching for our favorite golden thread scissors that looked like a crane. We’d watch her sit at her sewing table, creating fabric chains that would fall to the floor in a pile. As the youngest grandchildren, we watched almost all of our cousins get married and be given her most precious gift: a custom wedding quilt.

My mom started quilting when I was in junior high. I immediately was hooked. I would sit and help her lay out quilt squares on a board covered with flannel, so they wouldn’t shift in transit. We picked out the fabric together that eventually became the first quilt I helped sew: the gorgeous watercolor Irish chain. We picked out the fabric at a store in Long Beach, right off Bushard St. — the pronunciation of the street name was a mystery to us which created endless laughter between my mom and I. Quilting has always been a family affair. They are made as a family and given to family. Being a part of this sewing legacy has always meant the world to me.

Not long after my grandmother saw the finished Irish chain quilt, she decided to make a similar one. It was a watercolor pattern but in a diamond shape. My mom returned to that same fabric store and they picked out the fabric together. It was a striking, rose-colored, King size quilt to cover the bed in the guest house. It remained there for many years. I remember countless weekends of playing in the pool, being barked at by their corgie Mamie, and running into that guest house, soaking wet to use the bathroom. That quilt was always there. It meant my grandmother, a weekend with my family, listening to old classics being crooned on the radio, the desert heat, and salami sandwiches with pickles and dijon. It meant klondike bars while watching golf with my grandfather and sneaking off to play heart and soul on the organ with my sister.

By the time my sister got married my grandmother was fading a bit in her abilities. Her slow mental decline became more apparent when working with the intricacies of quilt making. My mom and I re-sewed nearly the entire quilt she had made for my sister’s wedding. A beautiful blue and white wedding ring quilt, not a quilt to be trifled with. Two years later it was my turn to get married and we knew grandmother wouldn’t be able to make me a quilt. She was starting to downsize her sizable quilt collection and asked if I’d like any of the ones she’d already made. I knew without a doubt which one I wanted. The rose-colored, watercolor diamond quilt. I was so happy when she presented it to me on my wedding day.

My grandmother died three years ago, the day before my 30th birthday. Anything that she touched has become incredibly valuable to me, not the least of which is that quilt. When Brian left I said a lot of weird things. Once in a heated moment, trying to convey how awful the whole situation was I told him, “I’m so glad my grandmother isn’t alive to see this.” She would’ve been heartbroken. Well, now I’m remarried and it often hits me how sad I am that she does not get to know my new husband. That he will never know her laugh, her Lucille Ball type qualities, her home that holds some of the most precious memories I have, or her quilts. We eloped, so I didn’t really miss the tradition of being presented a quilt at my wedding. But it still makes me sad sometimes.

This last weekend we used our normal blanket on our camping trip so while it was being washed, I pulled out that old rose-colored diamond quilt and laid it on the bed. It felt strange. It was a gift to Brian and me, but more than that it was a gift from my grandmother to me. I have lost a lot of things these past two years, but I was not about to lose this quilt. Not with all it has meant to me. I have grown to be thankful that it wasn’t made specifically for us. It was made with my mom to welcome family and cover the many people who stayed at my grandparent’s house. That’s just what she did, make people feel welcome and her quilts wrapped people in tangible love.

And now that quilt covers Johnathan and I as we sleep. It brought me to tears, feeling her love and presence in the seams of that quilt. Knowing she chose each fabric, touched each square, and sewed every stitch. Needles. Thread. Fabric. Scissors. A simple equation that adds up to something so much bigger than its parts. My broken heart and life are being sewn together by my Savior, in a crazy pattern I never would’ve chosen for myself. And yet I’d like to think that if my grandmother was here she would smile and say, “Isn’t He good?”

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Little Blessings

We were having a nice little family trip to Starbucks when we came face-to-face with the way culture completely devalues children. I had taken the kiddos outside after getting our drinks while my husband had a few things to finish up inside before joining us. Now, I will be the first to admit: kids can be annoying. MY kids can be annoying. And loud. And rambunctious. But on this particular day, they were just sweet and happy. Several people had smiled at them and said “hello”. My kids are on the extremely extroverted side of the spectrum and they love talking to people, were being generally friendly, said “please” and “thank you” when ordering — you get the picture. They were cheerful, a little oblivious to other people trying to get by, but overall, their behavior was better than average.

As my husband headed outside to join us, he was walking behind a group of 20-something gals. He stopped dead in his tracks when one of the ladies, in reference to our kids, said, “don’t you just want to kick them?” She was quickly mortified when he spoke up with, “you mean my children?” She turned bright red and quickly left. But wow. My sweet and friendly kids, just being kids, somehow invited her complete disdain and even a joke about physically harming them. Yeesh.

But isn’t that culture today? Isn’t it sad? Children are seen as obstructions to our days, annoyances to our plane flights, interruptions to our dinners, and inconveniences to our lives. Their value is so minimized, it’s no wonder that their rights are also next to nothing. Not unlike the time of Jesus. At his birth, there was mass murder of babies and young children. While I doubt (or at least hope!) that this wasn’t approved of by the people as a whole, it definitely revealed the expendability of children and how they were seen as subservient to achieving one’s personal goals and ambitions (in this case, King Herod not wanting to be usurped by another King).

And yet, Jesus: always counter-cultural, always bucking the system, always surprising people. He welcomes the little children. He values their faith as something for us to learn from. He declares them to be precious. He takes time out of his busy schedule to pause and hold them, finding them to be just as worthwhile of an audience as those he preached to and healed. It isn’t surprising that a culture that devalues children then devalues people — and all kinds of hatred and fighting follow. If society can’t even view small children with a bit of charity, how will they ever see value in their fellow man? How will they learn to dialogue with others who differ from them when they don’t even have the patience for childish behavior?

I get it. Kids are annoying. Adults can be irritating. Heck, most of the dialogue happening on social media these days is downright exasperating. But we have to see past the childishness and the foolishness to see what Jesus valued in other people: their souls. Regardless of how we differ and disagree, I hope we can take the time to see all people have value because all people were created in God’s image. When Jesus takes time to focus and praise little children there is a lesson for us to learn: God loves people, pursues people, takes time with them, and is patient with their nonsense. We should strive to do the same.

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Eyes on Jesus

There’s a phrase I hear a lot around my house. And by a lot I mean, “if I had a nickel for every time I heard it, I’d be a millionaire.” My three kids have a variety of responsibilities around the house: homework, setting the table, putting away toys, folding laundry, etc. Without fail, I have one dawdling and hemming and hawing, trying to delay the inevitable. When I prompt them with a reminder, “Buddy, it’s time to fold the laundry.” The common refrain is, “But so-and-so isn’t doing it!” Every. Day. Most of the time is exasperates me, but occasionally it hits me as quite profound. Is it any different than the question Peter asked Jesus in John 21:21, “Lord, what about this man?” Is it really any different than what we do all day long in our prayers?

God, why was she able to get pregnant so quickly and I remain infertile? Why is that marriage blessed even when it sprung from an unhealthy start, while mine failed despite the best intentions? Why do I have to have such strong convictions while someone else seems to feel no guilt? Why do I have so many illnesses while someone else seems to always be healthy and strong? Why are my efforts to grow a business never successful and others seem to have the Midas touch? Why are some people called to extraordinary sacrifice in their Christian walk while others seem physically blessed beyond measure? Why was I born into wealth and privilege and others starve to death? Why can’t I eat whatever I want and not gain weight like so-and-so? Why are people born with disabilities and with struggles that will make their life so much harder than mine? Why are some asked to remain single and held to celibacy while others enjoy the gift of marriage?

Why her? Why him? Why me? Why not me? Why, God?

The answer? Eyes on Jesus. Stop looking at everybody and everything else and look to Jesus. And as you look to Jesus focus on what he has specifically for you. What is Jesus asking you to do? It’s the same answer given to Peter in John 21:22 “As for you, follow me.” And in some ways, it’s the same answer I give my children. “Buddy, what did I ask you to do?” In that moment things seem unfair to him, for whatever reason. But I’m asking him to trust me. Trust that I have his best interest in mind. That I will make sure everyone gets what they deserve — that if the other child really is slacking, that they won’t get the same reward as the one doing their job faithfully. My kid’s vary in age from 3 to 8, which means the oldest often feels more weight of responsibility than the others. It often feels unfair to him, no doubt. But what I’m asking him to do in that moment is to believe I have his good in mind. Stop looking at the facts as they appear from his perspective and trust ME.

Now, I’m an imperfect mother. Even as I’m asking my son to trust me, I know that I’m going to fail him. But thankfully that is not the case with our perfect God. Not only is he trustworthy because of his character, revealed in Scripture: wise, loving, gracious, forgiving, unchanging, powerful, etc. We also know he is trustworthy because of his consistent track record of faithfulness towards people. Psalm after psalm recount the deeds of God, done on behalf of faithless people. How he rights all wrongs and rewards those who seek him all their days. So when he says, “trust me, look to me, follow me,” I have every confidence that he knows better than I do. That asking “why her” and “why me” is only going to generate discontent and distrust in my Lord.

As I attempt to parent these small children, I recognize all the ways that they cannot see the big picture. They see their small slice of the pie and it feels unfair. It reminds me that I don’t always know the whole story in my life either. The piece I can see appears unjust when I am not focusing on the perfect justice of my God. I don’t know why some people will have harder lives than others, but I do know that my all-wise, all-loving, and all-powerful God does. I choose to trust him and keep my eyes on Jesus when life doesn’t make sense.

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It’s Time

I have attempted to be private about the details of my divorce and what led to it. I hope I have done right by protecting my former husband and by not airing laundry the world did not need to know. And yet, our marriage was very public in many ways. For those of you who have known me for years, you remember when we were writing publicly about Brian and I’s mixed orientation marriage. You remember seeing me post pictures at Pride Parades, having countless LGBT-friendly gatherings in my home, and may even know we were on track to writing a book on the subject. In my mind, I was trying to create a bridge between the two worlds I found myself in: the gay world filled with many people who were dear to me and the conservative Christian world I was raised in and continue to choose to align myself with.

And since all of that was very public, I’m sure many of you have wondered where I stand now. How do I look back on it all? Would I endorse the positions I held and wrote about back then? Do I agree with the ways we conducted ourselves? How do I feel about controversial events happening on a national level, with the Nashville Statement coming out this past week and LGBT issues in the news constantly? How do I feel when I see the kinds of views my ex-husband is posting publicly and everything he now stands for?

Well, I’m going to answer those questions to the best of my ability while continuing to preserve discretion where I can. I think we were wrong. Not for getting married, not for attempting to stay married, not for pursuing Christ and forsaking all others. Those things were right and I wholeheartedly believe our marriage could have survived based on that foundation. But we were wrong to embrace “being gay” as an identity. We were wrong to move away from the gospel and to move towards figuring out some new way to exist. When I look back on what we wrote, I think, “dear Monica, run to Jesus. He is ever and only the answer. There is no other way. Don’t succumb to pressure, don’t give in to what feels comfortable and more palatable. Cling to God and truth.” Brian slowly, inch by inch walked away from faithfulness to the Scripture. Our hearts can only serve one god, and he chose identity in his sexuality above all else. He eventually sacrificed everything on that altar: his relationship with God, our marriage, and our family.

When I read the Nashville statement, all I can think is “YES. Thank you.” I wish this was written twenty years ago and that I had never begun to depart from it. I obviously bear responsibility for allowing myself to be moved on a variety of topics, but I felt helpless to do otherwise. Like many, if not all of you, I had heard that because I did not personally experience these issues that I could not have a voice in the discussion. I trusted Brian. I trusted him to lead me and our family, and so I often deferred to his judgment. When he said “we don’t like what so-and-so is saying” I agreed. I didn’t bother to read for myself or figure out how things were lining up with Scripture. I planted my flag in the ground, defending him at all costs whether I fully understood why or not. That is my fault. I should not have done that. Now as I read the people that he did not endorse, I can see why. People like Rosaria Butterfield and Christopher Yuan. People who were saying, “No. It doesn’t matter what your experience is, Jesus is the only answer and finding hope or identity in anything other than him will not work.”

I cannot say it any more clearly or emphatically or with as much authority as Rosaria Butterfield did in her recent blog. She is someone who has a legitimate voice in the discussion because of her sexual orientation. I am incredibly grateful for what she wrote and follow it with a hearty “amen.” I literally felt sick when I read the response to the Nashville Statement in the Christians United statement along with others echoing their sentiment. Because you cannot get away with calling sin “good”, just because it feels more loving. Because I know where attempting to find a middle ground leads. I know because I watched it happen first hand in the person I loved more dearly than any other in this world. I watched this man who loved Jesus turn into someone who I do not recognize. There is no middle ground. There are only two ways to live — towards and for Christ or away and against Him. I choose the former.

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