A Star

An 8 point star quilted by Mary Clyde Terrell (1887-1977)

Today is a day for Solstice musing. A day containing the moment of turning, the marking of winter, the promise of returning light. I want to dwell on that promise and write about darkness and light – but I am drawn to a Crazy Quilt made by my maternal grandmother.

I often bring it out at this time of year because it reminds me of her, of a country Christmas, a scraggly fence row cedar cut for decorating, of homemade gifts and family coming back home for Christmas. As I spread the old quilt out, I admire once again all the love in the repeated patterns and random pieces. I love the briar and feather stitches adorning patches of fabric scraps left from sewing clothing or even the pieces of old clothing. A Crazy Quilt usually uses the fancy cloth from an old church dress or something worn for a special occasion. Some of these quilts have silk or velvet or satin. Grandma used what she had.

So I will use what I have as well. For the first time in all the years I have had this quilt, I am seeing a new message in the pattern. If I only look at a few patches at a time, I miss the bigger picture – the pattern of the 8 point star. Stunned by a new perspective, I am called to the symbol of this star. An 8 point star is the symbol of a compass. It speaks of navigation and direction.

This fourth week of Advent, I feel the cadence of pounding hearts and plodding feet – Joseph and Mary on their way to Bethlehem, the wise men who saw a star that was so different it sent them on a distant journey. I imagine their desperate need for direction and how they sought it. Grandma’s 8 point star reminds me that I have a compass, that I will be given the navigation I need for Advent, for Christmas, and beyond.

One Stitch at a Time

My niece, Sharon, made this warm scarf for me and mailed it from Colorado. Not this year. A few weeks ago she had a stroke. I am thankful she had good medical treatment and am told she should regain lost mobility and speech. She will work intentionally on all that is required to do that, just as she knit these pieces of vividly colored yarn into a whole piece, one stitch at at time. One piece at a time. One color at a time. The result is lovely, wrapping me in soft reassurance that I am loved.

Advent is like that. One stitch at a time in what seems an uncertain plan. Busy days when stitches get dropped or I feel unraveled.. Changes in the way I thought things would look. A row of different color. But I know that stitch by stitch, step by step, the gift is coming.

“Lead, Kindly Light, amid the circling gloom,

Lead Thou me on!

The night is dark, and I am far from home –

Lead Thou me on!

Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see

The distant scene, – one step for me.”

John Henry, Cardinal Newman

Advent Candles and Carols

We have finished lighting the 2nd Advent candle, the candle of Faith. Mary believed that although she did not know or understand the mystery, she trusted God. I placed the book of carols I first wrote about in 2009 on the piano. Pain prevents my sitting for very long to play right now but I want to make these beloved familiar songs real with my fingers again. What music speaks to your Advent longings?

The Carols of Christmas

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Each year during Advent and Christmas I enjoy many of the same carols I sang when I was growing up. But I also love learning new ones, which are mostly really old! I have a lovely Christmas songbook given to me by my son, Ben. In it I find the traditional favorites as well as many that have become well loved if not as familiar. The following is one of those. The origins of this old carol apparently lie in the southern part of France. I am strangely attracted to it, and like to think that my French great great grandparents might have taught this to their little girl who later came with them to the United States and was my great grandmother. Although she died when I was a baby, perhaps she even sang it to me and rocked me. I feel it so.

Whence comes this rush of wings afar,
Following straight the Noel star?
Birds from the woods in wondrous flight,
Bethlehem seek this Holy Night.

Tell us, ye birds, why come ye here,
Into this stable, poor and drear?
“Hastning we seek the newborn King,
And all our sweetest music bring.”