“Jotham was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. His mother’s name was Jerusha daughter of Zadok. He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord…” (II Chronicles 27:1-2a NIV).

About this time last year, I was on a cleaning frenzy after the move of our middle child. Working helped take my mind off the melancholy I was feeling–wishing time could go back, hearing that snide voice, You failed at this. You should’ve done that. Somehow, wielding my vacuum and mop made me battle better.

One task I’d set my mind to was to go through and organize linens–bed sheets, pillow cases, blankets, and bath towels. Too many were mix-matched, some threadbare. After I’d assessed them all, I gathered the lot and placed the laundry basket in my vehicle. Then, a couple days later, I drove to a ministry thrift store in our community.

Upon removing it all from my car, handing it off to the kind gentleman who offered to help, I discovered my heart hurt a little. Memories came flooding back in that moment, and I envisioned those sheets covering boys in footed-pjs. Little heads upon race car pillow cases. Towels drying little boy bottoms. And I felt sad, almost couldn’t bring myself to drive away—considered asking for all of it back. But a gentler voice whispered—It’s okay. Someone else will use these, someone who needs them more than you do. Just say a prayer, asking God to bless those who receive them. So I did. And it helped, at least a wee bit.

It also helped when, for our 32nd anniversary last year, I decided to gift Bill with a nice, new set of bamboo sheets, and this established a sort of theme. We started talking about finding a new quilt for our bed—Bill, knowing my love for quilts, searching online and in several shops in our small community, trying to find just the right one. He took dozens of photos and shared them with me. This one? Or this?

Finally, we decided to invest in a custom-made quilt instead and tossed around the idea of using pieces of fabric from family members’ attire. After much discussion, we determined that, for this quilt, we desired memories of our grandmothers be included–from dresses and aprons as well as other personal items. After all, these women had helped shape us—were instrumental, much like King Jotham’s mother Jerusha, in leading us in godliness. I had several things from my grandmothers, tucked away in a cedar chest, and I set about pulling them out, showing them to Bill. In the end, we only needed a couple more garments from his grandmothers back in Ohio, which parents happily provided.

All our materials gathered, we needed to find the right quilter for this special job. Last August, we’d visited Damascus, VA to bicycle the Creeper Trail. While meandering through the quaint shops near our accommodations, we saw a lovely quilt in a specialty shop. Though this particular one wasn’t what we were looking for, we inquired about its creator, and the shop owner shared, “Oh, that there was made by Dawn Heath, a local.” And before we left, he gave us her phone number.

Bill tried several times to reach her and, after leaving a message or two, she returned our call, agreeing to meet with us prior to our departure the next day. “But it’ll have to be after church,” she added. “How about 12:30?”

The next day, we followed the directions she’d offered, arriving at Hootowl Hollow Farm, just outside Damascus, right on time. A middle-aged woman, still in her Sunday finest, greeted us on her porch, accompanied by her two dachshunds. “Come in,” and she politely held the door for us.

Guiding us to her living room, a couple handmade quilts had been arranged on her couch. Ms. Heath handed us several patterns to look over, explaining each could be tailored to our liking with regard to colors and fabric patterns.

“We’d love to incorporate fabrics from our grandmothers’ clothing,” I told her. “Would that be a problem?”

“Not at all. I’ve done that before,” she affirmed, adding, “And that certainly makes a quilt special.”

I then shared my love for quilts, describing several favorites back home. “There’s the one made by a dear elderly woman many years ago which was the quilt I would choose each time I was sick. A particular fabric always stood out to me, though I don’t know why—little colorful berries on a black background.”

The tattered, faded quilt I always chose when I was sick, which my momma gave to me–created by a dear family friend many years ago

Then I told her about the one my dear Grandma Alice made for us for our wedding many years ago and about the one Bill’s Grandma Ruby gave us two decades prior to her passing.

Grandma Alice Miller’s quilt
Made by Bill’s paternal grandma, Ruby Farley

Finally, I told her about my unfinished quilt—begun in early 2012 when I took a quilting class at a local shop. “I stopped working on it abruptly when our daughter joined our family on a bright March morning.” And I laughed. “I only have a bit more to do, attach the binding and such.” I thought I sounded so smart, using technical quilting terms. “Right now, it’s just sitting, waiting to be finished.”

My yet unfinished quilt

Bill and I studied the plethora of patterns before determining which one we liked the best. “This one,” we said, almost in unison.

Ms. Heath looked at it for a moment. “Ah, Hunter’s Star–that one is beautiful. I’ve made it many times. Just send me the fabric you want and the overall color scheme. Perhaps take a picture of the room you’ll be using it in so I can match your quilt with paint and décor.” She paused, as though remembering. Then, “Yes, that should work just fine.”

I remember pondering as we sat in this woman’s home, someone who’d been a stranger but, in only minutes, seemed like a new friend—I wonder about her story. Perhaps her life’s like the quilts she makes, made up of varying patterns and fabrics. I wonder what her story-quilt would look like. 

Not long after we’d returned home from our trip, I mailed the selected fabrics to Ms. Dawn. Upon their arrival, she wrote to me to tell me that only one of the things I’d sent, a blue denim jacket belonging to my maternal grandma, Grandma Helga “Betty” Simonson, wouldn’t work for the quilt. That was fine, because I’d mailed two others dresses of hers, one she made and wore to our wedding in 1989, and another—a simple, handmade housedress—which I recall her wearing often.

A couple months ago, our finished quilt arrived. It’s beautiful—with fabrics from Bill’s paternal Grandma Ruby Farley and maternal Grandma Ella Mae Freshour, as well as Grandma Betty Gabbard. My Grandma Alice Miller’s apron is there, as are, as mentioned, a couple pieces from Grandma Betty’s dresses. Each is special, bound with love by a woman I still didn’t know well.

Our finished quilt, the pattern called “Hunter’s Star–a true piece of art. Our dear grandmothers’ dresses and aprons and other personal items are integrated so beautifully–offering a cover of God’s love.

And I still don’t know Dawn Heath well, though I know more. And, just as I imagined on that day I met her almost a year ago now, her life is a quilt—made up of many joy-filled experiences as well as pain. But as we know, God never wastes a suffering but stitches our experiences—both the broken and the now whole—to create something beautiful.

Yes, to create a covering of His love—a reminder of those who’ve guided us in godliness, that we might desire to do that which is right in the sight of the Lord.

(***More about Dawn Heath in Part 2 of A Covering of His Love, coming soon.***)

Who, like King Jotham’s mom, has offered you a covering of God’s love through their prayers and encouragement? Perhaps take some time today to thank them. If they’re no longer living, say a prayer of thanksgiving for the ways they led you to do what is right in the eyes of the Lord.

Thank you, dear Father, for those spiritual mothers in our lives–for all the ways they’ve covered us with Your love and encouraged us to follow You. Amen.