This is a piece of art that hangs in a hallway of my home.
It is more than a piece of needlepoint behind a glass: it is a special treasure that brings memories of my childhood. It was created by my mother who died when I was 12. It has survived moves, attics and storage boxes for more than 40 years. This summer I discovered it in the bottom drawer of a dresser in our storage unit.
I haven’t always treated this piece as a treasure. I remember the day my older sister brought it to me several years ago. It was still in its original frame, somewhat worn with water stains and frayed edges. I received it with hesitation… “What am I going to do with this?” “Do I really want it at all?” Each time I looked at it, I felt the familiar ache and longing to know more about my mother. “Why that quote?” “Why are the words in turquoise blue – was that her favorite color too?” It was easier to get rid of this treasure than feel the ache. And, there was something about this piece of art. I couldn’t bring myself to discard it, so I quickly and purposefully laid it in the bottom drawer of an old, abandoned dresser.
When I found it again this summer, I was stunned. Something had changed. Not so much with the picture itself, but something inside me. My heart has grown in tenderness and kindness toward my story and the memories of my mother.
I took the art inside, placed it on the dresser in my bedroom, and leaned it against the mirror. My eyes were drawn to the frame that held it. It was cheap, made of fake wood with gold plastic strips stuck to it, broken in places. It irritated me to think that the love, time and care spent to create such a sweet piece of art would be placed into such a cheap frame. I began taking the frame apart, piece by piece, careful not to tear the fragile muslin that held the stitches. I just couldn’t settle for a cheap frame.
I am a woman who has herself wrestled with a plastic frame. I have stuffed my heart, my dreams, my sins and my beauty into a frame of perfectionism, volunteering, leading committees, being a wife, mother and friend whose ‘busy-ness’ left people asking “How in the world do you do it all?” Really, I was living to numb the ache of my emptiness, hiding my insecurities and the secrets of my story. When I got tired of holding it all together, I sought counsel. One of my counselors, a man I consider to be brilliant, once told me, “You’ve earned the right to come undone.” “What?!!! Not hold it all together? REALLY?”
No. The plastic frame I had put around my heart to hide the painful secrets of my past sexual abuse did not work well.
Neither did the plastic frame around the needlepoint. After taking it apart, I lay the frameless muslin gently on the bed.
Today, even though the muslin is weathered and worn, it remains intact and holds hundreds of stitches with threads of vibrant colors, all coming together, an offering of art and a message of beauty.
I can still read the words that stand out in their unique color of turquoise blue amidst the fall colors…the sentences slightly slanted and imperfect…
“What need we teach a child with our books and our rules?
Let him walk among the hills and flowers
let him gaze upon the waters
let him look up to the stars
and he will have his wisdom.”
The treasure of my mother’s needlepoint needed a new frame. My story needed a new frame as well.
One of my favorite quotes says it best…
“Until our stories have been framed with the gospel story, we will not want to hang them up for others to see.” Dan Allender
Yes. In my desire to know more of Jesus and his grace, love is changing my heart.
The words describing my treasured needlepoint resemble the colorful words Love has sewn into my heart…
Amazed, weathered, worn, remained, in-tact, held, vibrant, imperfect, slanted, stained, frayed, unique, broken, fragile
And, as I look at my re-framed piece of art, I am given a gift in my longing to know more about my mother. She was creative. She sowed seeds of creativity into my life through the life of my older sister who she taught to sew.
Here is another piece of art, embroidered by my older sister. It hangs on the wall, in front of my computer and is a reminder that Love Never Fails…
The beauty of creativity lives on. I love the question I hear from my daughter…. “Mom? Can I monogram some t-shirts for my friends for Christmas?” “Yes, sweet girl, you can.”
Ellen Oelsen lives in the Texas Hill Country with her husband of 24 years. She is a mother of 4 children and loves their 2 dogs and 1 cat. Her hobbies include cooking, nature, reading, plays, and two stepping. She delights in offering hospitality of the heart and creating spaces of care, rest, play and reflection to inspire hope. She is beginning to expose the writer within her.