So I am going to be honest with the very kind folks out there in cyberspace and share that last week was a tough one for me. Nothing specific was wrong or bad or anything other than just a lot of stress and needs hitting all at once. I admit that I had tears in my eyes a few times trying to find the best way through and just not finding it. I actually spent time with a friend brainstorming a very long list of ideas that went from the sane (vacation time, less gym time, cancel cable) to the insane (go to jail, hire a butler, stop talking to other people). We were definitely creative, but not exactly finding the golden ticket.
Then I went to Home Community on Thursday night.
Home Community, a Bible Study from my church, has been a regular part of my life for over eight years now. When I started my doctoral program, it was one of the few nonnegotiables I had. The rest of that list included running with Beth on Saturday mornings, Once Upon a Time / Agents of Shield, and my academic advising job full-time. I only miss HC on Thursday nights for work, and even then I try to schedule anything I can for other nights.
Last week was the last official HC of the year, which I find just adorable of us because we kick of summer in two weeks so our “break” is one week long and folks are still meeting up. You see its not just a Bible study; this group is a family.
After Introductions (we all know each other and still go around with names and a question of the week), it was announcements and then sharing something memorable about the past year with the group. In the moment, I couldn’t think of anything specific. Instead I just shared that as I think about any changes in the future with school and work, I don’t want this part of my community to be lost.
Amy, our main discussion leader, stepped out of the room and brought a white bag with tissue paper back in. She explained that it was a gift to someone in the room who really needed it. I immediately thought it was for Coralie and Will, who so kindly offer us their home every week and host an amazing potluck that is ALWAYS my best meal of the week. Because I had a frozen burrito for dinner tonight, and Coralie made grilled chicken or tofu with coconut rice, mango salsa, and mini cupcakes last week. Its amazing, ALWAYS.
While Amy was talking, I have to admit I was getting just a little bit embarrassed because I thought I had missed the email chain or card to sign. Here was a present for someone in the group and I hadn’t contributed or help. And if you know me in the real world, you know that presents are kind of my thing. I had missed my thing!
After a minute or two, I got to learn why I wasn’t in the email loop for this gift. It was a gift for me.
And that ladies and gentlemen is when the tears weren’t just in my eyes, but all over my cheeks and one sleeve.
My friends, this family, had made me a quilt. Apparently the project started a year ago with members of the group, including some who had moved away, sending in pieces of fabric or donating to the background purchase. Amy collected the pieces and designed this quilt with stacks of colored books on the front. The back side included lots of open space, which friends on Thursday night used to write kind words (while I sat in appreciative and dumbstruck silence on the side of the room).
I couldn’t decide what I was most amazed about:
- That a group of about 20 people had kept a secret for a year
- That so many people would come together for me
- That Amy was so creative to design this work of art
- That 4-year-old Isaac wanted to write his name (and got super close for someone who can’t read yet)
- Or that you can be 35 years old and still find such comfort in a blanket
After HC on Thursday night I went home and read 30 pages from Academically Adrift under my blanket. Then on Friday night I worked for two hours on editing and adding theological foundation under my blanket. Then on Saturday, before karaoke, I curled up under the blanket for an episode of White Collar. And Sunday night, as I finished up 11 pages for my dissertation proposal, I had my blanket pulled around me like a giant colorful cape.
I am going to keep this quilt as a treasured item for the rest of my life. Eventually there will be chai stains on it because its going to be used, rather than folded into a closet, per the directions Amy and Coralie made sure I had walking out the door. And it will be keeping me warm for the next year as I read and write my way to a PhD. And then it will curl around me to watch a very large amount of television (I’ve been holding off on Downtown Abbey until I have the brain space).
Thank you family for giving me refuge in this storm.