I could hear the angry wind bullying the trees and shrubs outside my frosty window, slamming sleet, branches, and brittle leaves harshly against the glass. After such a mild winter, this nasty blizzard wannabe in mid-March caught me off-guard. Old Man Winter’s last hurrah. I shivered in the cold and watched a small caravan of utility trucks crawl by on the icy road in front of my home. “My heroes,” I whispered to myself, grateful.
We had no power. Sometime in the night, somewhere down the road, something had torn down power lines. We had no electricity, no heat, no phone service, no water—a very miserable way to begin a very miserable day. Of course, I hadn’t thought to charge my phone the night before either. But worst of all, no coffee! I slumped into our comfy, new recliner and pulled a faded coverlet up to my nose. Ah, warmth. Hopefully the power would be restored soon. I had a lot to do.
In the filtered light, with a rare uncluttered morning unfolding, I absently noticed that my hand rested on a patchwork child in a big sunbonnet. In fact, the hand-sewn quilt was covered with meticulously stitched little girls decked out in carefully coordinated calico bonnets and dresses. What a labor of love! I was wrapped in hours of tedious sewing! This heirloom had been tucked in the bottom of my hope chest, overlooked for years. Recently, sorting and cleaning, I had discovered it and carelessly thrown it in the laundry. As I ran a finger over the design, appreciating its intricate beauty perhaps for the first time, happy memories settled over me, warming me like the quilt had moments earlier. The names! How had I missed them? What if I had ruined them with the washing?
On aqua patches, a telling clue to the age of this gift, someone with lovely cursive handwriting had artfully inscribed the names of every person on the membership roll at First Baptist Church in Elmer, my hometown church. I wished I could remember who. I smiled as I examined the square by my elbow. My funny bone was resting on Kenny’s name! How funny! Nestled there among his parents and six siblings was Kenneth Hill, a name I would proudly take a few years after this quilt had been lovingly given to my daddy in the early sixties. I smiled again, remembering how, smitten with puppy love, I would wrap myself up on Sunday afternoons when this blanket was new, making sure the Hill square was near my heart. Sweet, precious memories.
One by one, as I read each name, old and long-forgotten faces flashed brilliantly up on a dusty screen hastily hung in the recesses of my mind. Like stars in old home movies, the folks smiled and waved; my heart was warmed again. I pushed the now cozy chair back further and closed my eyes. All those names. All those people. All Daddy’s legacy.
If I remember the story correctly, Daddy was elected as Sunday School Superintendent when he was yet a teenager. The responsibility compelled him to hitch hike across the country to Illinois where he enrolled in and attended Wheaton College; he had decided he would obtain a biblical education to help him better carry out his duties. He was very serious about the job he had been entrusted with…for decades.
It became a family affair. We helped plan the annual picnic, we sorted materials, we previewed filmstrips and Christmas programs, we made posters to promote events, we cleaned the Sunday School closet at church, we visited new families that had come to First Baptist, we wrapped up Christmas fruit and candy, attendance pins, and award Bibles to give away at certain seasons of the year, and we helped host the teacher training meetings Daddy held quarterly in our home. We loved them. We would lie at the top of the steps and listen to the teachers complain about or praise their students, unaware that three sets of curious little ears were intently gathering any juicy gossip they could. And my mother would bake and fuss all day, the glorious smells of freshly brewed coffee and spicy applesauce cake floating up that dark stairway to taunt us, the Banished-to-the Bedroom Bunch. No TV, no phones, no computers, no hand-held electronic games. What on earth did we do? Eavesdrop, what else?
The worst part, though, of having a Sunday School Superintendent for a dad was us having to be at church a half-hour or more earlier than anybody else each Sunday morning. Daddy wanted to make sure all the rooms were set up and that the Sunday School papers were ready for distribution. He loved to greet his teachers and offer a word of encouragement or answer any concerns or questions they had. He wanted to meet the families as they arrived, making certain he knew everyone and that each one felt personally welcomed. But we hated the Sunday morning rush, all of us clamoring at the same time for the one bathroom we shared. Even though weekday mornings we all were out of the house two and a half hours earlier, Sunday always seemed to be chaotic and we kids resented his hurry-up-and-wait plan. We probably drove him crazy. If he was anything, he was conscientious, purposeful, and punctual.
It was my childhood perception, one I still hold today, that my dad was loved and highly esteemed at church. I think the quilt that was so carefully crafted and so affectionately given to him for his years of faithfully serving as Superintendent speaks to and validates my impression.
My dad was not a handsome, assertive, outgoing, or charismatic man. He was quiet, plain, and humble. He loved God. He loved God’s people. So he served them both.
My dad died only a few months after he received the quilt. I was seventeen years old. He was fifty-two. From that day to this, I still hear about how Daddy influenced a situation, cared for a particular family, impacted some person, or taught a random group. He studied God’s Word, he shared his Gospel story, he marveled at creation, he prayed for the broken, and he visited the sick and elderly. To put it succinctly, Daddy loved. Under the radar, he quietly went about his Father’s business of making disciples, of building a legacy. I wonder how many names could be added to his quilt if all those he touched for the kingdom were inscribed there? How big would it have to be?
As I stretch my legs in my chair, I’m struck with a thought. In spite of the warmth the quilt has provided me, I shiver as I consider it. I have outlived my dad by many years. So how big is my quilt? The size of a napkin? A lap blanket? A king-size comforter? Just what or who is written on it? What is my legacy?
We all have one. What will we leave behind? What will I leave behind?
I was privileged to be Daddy’s daughter. I was well-trained. His lessons were both taught and caught. Out of an over-flow of love for a God who first loved me and gave himself to rescue me, I am compelled to love and esteem others better than myself. With whatever gifts I have been graciously given, I must spend myself on behalf of the Gospel. Not for a quilt. That was a very kind gesture from the church in Elmer to my dad, one that surprised and embarrassed him. But even if my obedience and my efforts to love and serve others go completely unnoticed, I know my Father in heaven sees. Isn’t that all that really matters? What I do, big or small, really must be done for an audience of just One. I think that’s what Daddy did. I want to, too.
My children won’t have a quilt to comfort them when I’m sitting at the feet of Jesus with my parents. My grandkids won’t have a litany of names to smile about, remembering puppy-love and first beaus. But my prayer is that they all will have my invisible quilt wrapped around their hearts that is gratefully inscribed with the words “faithful, obedient, beloved daughter of the King.” That is the legacy I aspire to. Don’t you?
“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself,
if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received
from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”