Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Orphan Quilt

I think this house has ghosts. I don’t live here yet. But as I wander the many hallways, climb the stairs to the attic, and walk through the orchard, they come and talk to me. The first was Isabella. She is a sweet lady, sly and mischievous. Angus, the Scotsman wanders through the orchard. He has put in a few appearances but is strangely silent. I may learn his story on a later trip. Jess didn’t appear till I hung her portrait. It must have been her portal into my home.

As I lay there in the dark in my mother’s bed I could feel her eyes on me. They were dark, piercing, unsmiling. I wonder what she was thinking silently staring out of the painting I had hung on the wall in the red room.
I always liked the headshot. It was a copy from a full-length portrait of my great grandmother Janet. Her story is a mystery. My mother and her sisters would never speak about her. And yet I have her portrait. Her sisters sent it to my mother and later I asked for it. But- who are you Grandmother Janet?

“Children, They break your hearts.  I never wanted to be a mom. But there I sat on the boat, slowly rocking back and forth in the surf’, my stomach extended more than I ever thought was possible. What was I going to do now? Soon I would be ashore, my husband would be meeting me. He would know this child wasn’t his. He left home three years ago. There was no way he would accept this child as his own. How was I going to survive the mess I had gotten myself into?

I married young in Glasgow Scotland. I was running away from an abusive home and ended up in the arms of a cold stern Presbyterian minister.  He left one morning to sail to America to make his fortune in the coalfields of the Great West, and to save the souls of the savages. “Jesse”, he said, “I’ll write and send for ye. Be a good gal na.”

Tenderly I ran my fingers across my stretched belly. Hush, hush, we’ll be there soon. Hang on. I had been having contractions since late last night. I was anxious to give birth to my burden, but I’d rather not drop it into the ocean while wading to solid ground. The trip had been horrid. I had passage in the hull of the great ship. Having little money, I wasn’t able to get a cabin of my own or even one with ten other people crowded into it. I was in steerage with the seething masses trying to get out of England. We had left six weeks ago and tossed through the waves, the ship sometimes nearly lying on its side, ravaged by the winds and the rains.
The other women on the ship took pity on my little one. Each had contributed a piece of precious fabric or a quilt block from her own store. Together we spent the long trip stitching in the weak light till we had enough for a baby’s blanket. We called it the orphan quilt. I don’t know if it was because a different hand made each of the blocks or because they weren’t sure I’d make it. The wee bairn may be an orphan yet if my husband turns us away.

I folded the precious blanket, a memorial of my shipboard friends to pack away for the trip ashore.
The largest block is called The Battle of Thor. It is an ancient symbol from Germany. It is believed to represent the sun and be a sign of peace. I need that assurance. Lottie gave me that one. “ She had been a good friend, caring for me during my bouts of upheaval on the ship. I don’t suppose I’ll ever get on a boat again. I need the firm ground beneath me.
Marne gave me a similar block in black and white. She’s from India, and sang soothing chants to help me sleep through the storms. The same symbol in Hindu means Life is good. There is value. I’ll need to remember that through the next few weeks, I know.
I must finish packing to go ashore. I can’t wait to be on dry ground.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Trial of Your Faith


The end of October brought some interesting experiences into our lives, those of us who live on the East Coast of the United States. My husband and I were planning on taking the train from Virginia to Rhode Island for a conference and to visit some of his relatives in Connecticut. Knowing that a hurricane was brewing off shore I was concerned. What if it hits and destroys the train tracks? How would we get home? But my husband, full of faith, and wanting to see his family, some maybe for the last time, assured me that we would be fine. The trip to Connecticut was lovely. The trees were brilliant. We rode the route, which followed the coast; with water views most of the way. Being with family was a joy, catching up, talking about our genealogy, and having a great meal. Sunday the conference began, and Monday, the hurricane hit New Jersey. While my husband went to conference sessions I hunkered down in my warm, dry, quiet hotel room and watched the news. It was devastating. One such report follows…
“Four days after Sandy lashed the East Coast with high winds and a huge storm surge, frustration mounted across New York City and well beyond as millions of people remained without power and motorists lined up for hours at gas stations in New Jersey and New York.
In the city's Queens borough, a man was accused of pulling a gun Thursday on a motorist who complained when he cut in line at a gas station; no one was injured. And as the Friday morning commute began, long lines at gas stations in suburban Westchester County snaked along expressway breakdown lanes and exit ramps.”
There was no way we would be able to take our train home to Virginia. Bus travel, too, had to go through New York City’s flooded streets.
While waiting to see how we were going to be able to find our way home, I read:

October 2012 General Conference
  Trial of Our  Faith By Elder Neil L. Andersen

“Like the intense fire that transforms iron into steel, as we remain faithful during the fiery trial of our faith, we are spiritually refined and strengthened.
Our faith is centered in God, our Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer.
The Apostle Peter identified something he called a “trial of your faith.” He had experienced it. Remember Jesus’s words:
“Simon, … Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:
“But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.”
Peter later encouraged others: “Think it not strange,” he said, “concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you.”
These fiery trials are designed to make you stronger, but they have the potential to diminish or even destroy your trust in the Son of God and to weaken your resolve to keep your promises to Him. These trials are often camouflaged, making them difficult to identify. They take root in our weaknesses, our vulnerabilities, our sensitivities, or in those things that matter most to us. A real but manageable test for one can be a fiery trial for another.
How do you remain “steadfast and immovable” during a trial of faith? You immerse yourself in the very things that helped build your core of faith: you exercise faith in Christ, you pray, you ponder the scriptures, you repent, you keep the commandments, and you serve others.
When faced with a trial of faith—whatever you do, you don’t step away from the Church! Distancing yourself from the kingdom of God during a trial of faith is like leaving the safety of a secure storm cellar just as the tornado comes into view.

President Ezra Taft Benson said, “Every [person] eventually is backed up to the wall of faith, and there … must make his stand.” Don’t be surprised when it happens to you!”

Our trials were small this time compared to those of many others. But it gave us an opportunity to remember the blessings we have been given, and an opportunity to serve those around us. Many are hurting, and homeless. What can we do to share our wealth of good fortune?
It means a lot to me that my Savior said,
“But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.”