This morning, my mother began taking down her Christmas decorations. As she frequently does this time of year, she replaced the decorations on her dining room table with the tablecloth that her mother-in-law made for her as a wedding present.
This tablecloth, with hours of love crocheted into every knot and loop, is one of my mother’s most prized possessions. She lost her mother-in-law less than ten years after she and my father wed, but Grandma Mac lives on every year when that tablecloth graces my parents’ table. For fifty-seven years, this tablecloth has been not only a beautiful reminder of my grandmother but a witness to baby showers and wedding plans and family dinners and all the sorrow and joy that comes from being part of a family.
When I got married, my father gave me more than just a gift. In secret moments stolen during the times I was at work or house hunting with Ken, my father lovingly restored the hope chest that my mother’s father made as a wedding gift to my grandmother. I was never closer to any other human beings than I was to my mother’s parents, and the tears that flowed when I unwrapped that hope chest were salty reminders of the man who taught me about the water and its bounty mingled with tears of joy that the love my grandparents shared was being passed down to me. It has always been a reminder to me that my marriage is blessed and sacred and that I should always strive to have what they had.
Inside that hope chest was an afghan, crafted in our wedding colors, that my mother, much like my father, found the time to make when I was out. Time that came after work, after cooking meals, after cleaning the house, but probably before doing anything for herself. That’s who my mother is, and this afghan reminds me of the selfless love she has for me and for our family.
The beginning of January, as we all know, is a time for resolutions. It’s when we think about how we want to improve ourselves or what parts of our beings we want to grow or continue nurturing. 2020 was a year, for many, of discovering new talents and new hobbies. It was a year when working from home allowed many people to try new things and learn new skills that they never had time for before. As I look around on Facebook and Instagram and within my my own circle of family and friends, I love seeing the things that people have made and how they shared their talent with others, especially in the way of Christmas gifts.
Just look at the beautiful gift my mother received from her sister and brother-in-law. My uncle MADE this! It’s just one of the amazing gifts they gave to family and friends.
My Christmas gift was a crocheted nativity set for my collection that Aunt Debbie has promised to add to each year. I’m so excited! And for my birthday last year, they gave me this exquisite bowl to hold my special set of Biblical oils.
My daughter, Rebecca, has always admired my mother’s and aunt’s beautiful blankets, hats, sweaters, and other crocheted treasures. My mother gave Rebecca this tablecloth at her wedding shower, and Rebecca immediately wanted to learn how to do the same – not just create something of this beauty but share her creations with friends. Spending so much time at home has allowed her to develop her own talent and spread her love around.
For Christmas, she made her sisters and friends crocheted bottle koozies–not something you see every day!
Lately, Rebecca has been making baby blankets for her friends who are expecting babies. She has just finished a Christening blanket at the request of one friend. Like my mother, my aunt, and my grandmother, I know that Rebecca loops love into every thread that runs through her blankets. There is such profound joy that can be found in knowing that something you created is loved and cherished by others who can feel the love you have for them in the time and care put into these creations. Think of how much love and how much joy we can put into the world by giving something to someone that truly comes from the heart.
Over the past several months, Ken’s cousin has developed a love of baking, making pies, cakes, cookies, breads, and pastries fit for the angels. In one post, she was asked how her family was able to eat all of these goodies, and her response just filled me with happy vibes. She said that she loves to bake, but she leaves the eating to her friends and neighbors, dropping off sweet packages to those around her. Before COVID, Evelyn was heavily involved in volunteering with the homeless in Baltimore City. She’s now looking into baking as a means to host a benefit for her friends downtown. And I think this is what we are all meant to be doing – using our time and talents to grace others with love and to share what we have even more intimately with others. It takes little effort to write a check or a buy a gift on Amazon, but to put your heart and soul, your precious time and your special skills into creating something truly unique is a blessing to others and honestly, to yourself.
I fervently hope that everyone continues creating these beautiful works of art and they remember that work can be balanced with things that nurture our minds, bodies, and souls. As we we begin this new year, I pray that more people find ways to bless this world with gifts that are valued by the time and effort and love put into them rather than the price they paid. I hope that we are returning to a world where hard work is valued, but time spent with family and friends, effort put into creating beautiful things, and finding ways to show others how much we care about them are the things that really matter. I pray that we learn to see the true and everlasting gift in doing things for others, giving pieces of ourselves, and spreading love and good cheer throughout the year. Whether it’s crocheting a blanket, fashioning a piece of wood into a work of art, baking things sweetened with love, or shoveling the snow from a neighbor’s yard, we can all find a way to show our love to each other and work to make the world a better place.
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Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me, Whispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s book is The Greatest Gift. The suspense novel, Summer’s Squall, and all of Amy’s books, can be found online and in stores. Her latest novel, Island of Promise, was recently awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction. It is the 2019 winner for Best Inspirational Fiction in the RWA Golden Quill Contest, Best Romance in the American Book Awards, and a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award of Fiction. Amy’s 2019 work, The Devil’s Fortune, a finalist in the Writer’s Digest Self-Publishing Awards and winner of an Illumination Award, is based, in part, on Amy’s family history. The third book of Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Hope, was released in August of 2019.
Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018), The Devil’s Fortune (2019), Island of Hope (2019), A Devotional Alphabet (2019), Desert Fire, Mountain Rain(2020).