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"Look! See Mommy way up there?" I lifted the baby higher and swung his chubby arm in a clumsy wave. I don't know if his mother saw us from her perch high above our heads. She was focused on tiptoeing across a tightrope toward the platform 30 feet in the air.

Every summer YoungLives moms bring their children to Timberwolf Lake for a week of camp. Learning to navigate the high ropes obstacle course is one of the group activities the teen moms can tackle. Last year I stayed planted firmly on the ground and held a baby while his mother balanced precariously over our heads.

The ropes creaked and the trees rustled in the slight breeze. The metal hooks of the harnesses clinked as the women moved slowly through the course.

Some ladies clung to the upright supports and cried, but the mom I watched made the journey look easy. She practically danced across the swinging rope bridge and the single rope trail. At the end she faced a sheer drop to the ground. She gave one hysterical shriek as she slipped off the platform and rode the ropes gently back to earth.

Though I watched last year from the relative safety of the forest floor, I recognize we all perform a similar balancing act of grace and endurance. Whether we hold back and cry, or leap forward with joy, all our lives are a high ropes course of stamina and strength.

We walk a narrow, wobbly way of instability and uncertainty. The ground beneath our feet seems constantly shifting. Circumstances change. Dreams sometimes disappoint. Expectations can explode. We have only two choices: freeze in place and hold on tight, or keep moving slowly forward.

We have to trust we are clipped in correctly. No harness or helmet will protect us from the pains of daily life. No safety net will catch us if we fall. Money, resources, and relationships are never guaranteed. God is our only security. His Spirit holds us close, and his support system of guidelines leads us safely to the end of our adventure.

We have to keep trying. We have to take one tentative step, then another, then a few more.

"You must do the thing which you think you cannot do."

Eleanor Roosevelt

When we face our fears, we build courage. When we accept new challenges, we learn new skills. As we realize each success, we grow in confidence and discover the depths of our abilities.

We all face the final leap of faith. We have no choice but to let go, plunge forward, and believe that God will catch us in the end.

Last year I stayed on the ground with the babies. This summer I plan to walk the ropes and learn what is waiting for me beyond the final drop. The best part of freefall is the freedom.

What ropes are you walking today? Who is holding you as you make your way?

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IMG_0061Loved One,

I know the past was more difficult than you deserved.

You learned to adapt to your constantly changing circumstances. I pray you remember that life is always moving. Have the courage to travel to new places, learn new lessons, and seek new adventures.

 

I know you were forced to take on responsibility beyond your years.

You learned to work hard, set goals, and look forward to success. I pray you have faith in your deep reserves of power and strength. Never fear your freedom to choose your future and create the life you want to live.

I know you sometimes felt alone and afraid.

You experienced the grief of loss and uncertainty. I pray you understand the importance of showing compassion toward others in pain. Remain forever thoughtful, caring, and kind. Be cheerful, generous, and unafraid to love again.

My Daughter,

I pray you always know the value of your life to God and trust him to give you all you need. Be true to the Spirit that calls you, see the good in others, and believe in your unlimited potential. Bring hope and grace to the world, have confidence in your abilities, and be grateful for everything you receive. Always, always know you are loved.

 

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DeDe works patiently. She has carefully cut out the fabric, rearranged the pieces, and pinned them together in new and unexpected ways. The hum of the sewing machine in rhythmic and soothing. DeDe works slowly to create the quilt that will cover her bed and wrap her in warmth.

Every quilt represents the embrace of a relationship. In a quilt, as in life, we collect scattered pieces and random moments. We stitch together the frayed edges and join with other battered hearts. At last we hold a completed covering of colorful shapes and textures. One day we look back on our lives, and we can see the whole pattern of the time we shared with others.

To construct a quilt, we need a few tools:

IMG_0063Fabric gives warmth, comfort, and color.

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Batting adds softness and depth.

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Tee shirts hold special memories of shared experiences.

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A ruler measures the edges and keeps the seams straight.

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Scissors cut away what doesn't fit.

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A pincushion protects our fingertips from sharp points.

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Thread holds all the parts together.

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And a seam ripper helps us correct our mistakes.

We could invest in expensive fabrics and tools, but we don't have to. We can use what we have available and appreciate that we will always receive what we need.

DeDe works patiently, because a quilt can't be finished in a day. A life can't be built in a year. We work together slowly to join all the pieces and enjoy the intricate tapestries we create.

I'm enjoying the time we spend making this quilt! Keep watching this website to see what happened when these pieces started falling into place.

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What is falling into place for you today? What tools are you using to bring the pieces of your life together?

 

 

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Towering above Hannibal, Missouri, 244 concrete stairs lead up the hillside to the Mark Twain Memorial Lighthouse.

We ground through the laborious climb, one tortuous step at a time, gripping the metal handrail and gasping in the humid air, until we finally stood, swaying, on the topmost step.

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We journeyed for the view from the top. Through a break in the trees we watched the Mississippi River flowing peacefully far below.

We barely had time to catch our breath before starting back down the 244 steps to the street and the car, but we managed to find a few insights along the way.

We built courage.

A fall on the sharp, stone steps could have been back-breaking. To complete the climb we had to keep looking forward, stay focused on the beacon at the top, and patiently plod toward our goal. We confront our fear of falling when we look past the cracked and crooked steps and just keep climbing.

We helped our companions.

The walk is too long to tackle alone. To make it all the way we need a hand to hold onto, someone to pull us onward when we grow tired, a friend to encourage us when we feel like giving up. Friends propel us forward when our goal seems distant and difficult.

We gained perspective.

When we look down from above, the world seems still and silent. The sky is cool and clear, the wind blows the trees, and the river's dark currents flow without our consent or command. We realize that our power is very small, the world is bigger than we imagine, and only God gives us the strength to put one foot in front of the other.

We will always have new mountainsides to conquer and steeper steps to climb. The only way to appreciate the view is to muster our courage and make the grueling trek to the top. We can never guess what we will discover when we get there.

Where is your climb taking you today? Who are your companions on your way up?

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Long ago a lonely girl lived with her father in a lighthouse. On a scrap of paper the girl wrote, "My name is Esmerelda. I live in the lighthouse on Petri Island. Write to me." She put the paper in a bottle, sealed it with cork and wax, and threw the bottle into the ocean waves. Months later the mail boat brought Esmerelda a letter from the boy who had found her bottle on his beach. Esmerelda and the boy wrote letters for many years. One day the boy arrived in a rowboat and took Esmerelda away to be his wife. They lived happily ever after.

I don't remember when I read that story, but at ten years old, I went with my family on a summer trip to St. Louis. I took along my school picture with my name and address written on the back, put the picture inside an empty cough medicine bottle, and flung the bottle into the Mississippi River.

I remember the gray water slurping at the black mud on the shore and the gray sky stretching above it. The bottle bobbed downstream. I went home and eagerly awaited a letter from my new friend.

I'm still waiting.

I often feel I'm pitching my prayers out to sea and watching them drift away, only to wait and wonder when my rescue will arrive. But I'm developing a few strategies to help me be patient while I anticipate my answer.

Enjoy the view from the beach.

The sun rises over the water each morning. Warm breezes blow. Birds call, circling overhead. The world is bright and beautiful. I rest and appreciate the calm of peaceful skies and the rhythm of turning tides.

Use whatever washes ashore.

Driftwood endures the turbulent waves, abrasive sand, and battering rocks to emerge polished, smooth, and shining. I am grateful and collect all I receive to build shelter from the rains. I have more than enough for fires to warm the dark night.

Answer another's S.O.S.

Sometimes a message from another castaway floats into my harbor and lands at my feet. Then I paddle my little raft through the choppy seas and carry my companion to a new, more comfortable, and safer shore.

I have made many friends since that summer on the Mississippi River bank. We are no longer alone, but huddled together, calling for the Captain who commands the wind and waves, and scanning the distance for signs of his arrival.

I think I see a ship on the horizon.

What are you waiting for today? How can you answer another's call while you are waiting?

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We curled together on the sagging old sofa and pulled the quilt up over our pajamas. We ate popcorn and watched movies on the old 13 inch TV screen. The night outside was black and cold. The house walls were thin and drafty. The quilt had a scratchy blanket backing, but we stayed cozy, safe, and warm beneath it.

I love quilts. Quilting is a metaphor for what God does with our lives. He collects scattered remnants of our hopes and dreams and stitches together a beautiful new tapestry of bright colors and textures.

I've enjoyed making many quilts:

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I made this throw-size flannel for resting and watching TV on long autumn evenings.

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I made this fun floral for my daughter for Christmas.

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These scrappy squares are cut from old blue jeans, sweatshirts, and a flannel nightgown. It now covers the daybed in my office.

I love the softness, coziness, and wrap-around warmth quilts provide; but I love quilts more for all they symbolize.

Quilts are comforting.

Quilts are made for snuggling and snoozing under layers of warmth on long winter nights. They are soft and safe places when the world is hard and dark. Quilts feel like home and haven, family and love.

Quilts are covering.

Quilts are shelter from winter winds and roaring storms. They are symbolic of God's spreading wings, offering refuge and peace. Quilts give protection from the elements that threaten our calm and happiness.

Quilts are memory keepers.

Quilts are visual and tangible reminders of the special people who created them. The quilt with the scratchy backing was made by my daughter's paternal grandmother. I remember Darlene's door was open to everyone, and she faithfully baked cakes and pies for every family gathering. Quilts live forever to tell the stories of the people who have taught us and the lessons we have learned.

As a mentor I am privileged to share what I love with others. I am blessed to be helping my friend DeDe sew a warm and comforting quilt of her own.

Keep watching this site for instructions, tips, and photos of our progress. Check back again soon to see what became of these:

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Do you have a quilt that is special to you? What memories do you keep in the warmth of its embrace?

 

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"You just loosen this bolt and take off the cover. See how dirty the air filter is?" Greg held the dusty filter up toward the light. He dropped a clean air filter into the tray, replaced the lid, tightened the bolt.

My classmates leaned forward to watch Greg's callused hands work quickly under the car's open hood.

When I got my first car, I learned how to fill a gas tank and turn a key. No one told me to check the oil, the coolant fluid, the brake pads. For too many years I bought old, cheap cars and drove them until they croaked. Too many times I had been stranded outside the laundromat or the grocery store. My small hometown did not have a bus system. I needed a running car to get me to work and school.

I enrolled in Greg's "Do-it-yourself Car Maintenance" class. Greg showed his students how to check oil levels, change the oil and filter, gap spark plugs, change tires, and replace a battery. He lectured us about the importance of brake fluid, antifreeze, and new wiper blades.

I learned something significant from the guy with the callused hands and greasy shirt.

We have to work to take care of what is important to us.

When I take care of my car, it lasts longer and gets me where I need to go. When I nurture my friendships, I build strong relationships with people who support and encourage me. When I honor my goals and priorities, I grow and move forward toward my destination.

With regular maintenance our lives move more smoothly. Cars run better. Relationships flourish. Goals become reachable.

Neglect only leads to more problems. Cars break down. Relationships crumble. Progress stalls. When we neglect to maintain the important things long enough, we get stuck and abandoned on the side of the road.

God never leaves us alone on the roadside. When we work to maintain our faith in him, he will pick us up and drive us wherever we need to be.

What is important to you today? How do you maintain it to keep it running well?

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