Thursday, October 7, 2010

An Eternal Thread

Today is my dad's birthday. This time of the year now holds mixed emotions for me. The changing weather brings all the old excitement of fall birthdays and activities, but there is a note of sadness now. A missing and remembering. I sometimes wish I could go back to the way things were. But being here, now, on this particular leg of my journey through life is a good thing, too.

When Dad died, I wallowed for quite awhile. I was truly at a loss for what to do to make it through the pain. I had, in years gone by, lost a dear aunt and two wonderful grandparents, but I was in much deeper water now. I felt I was drowning in grief. I find that as much as I have healed since then, I still have tears streaming down my face now, just recalling it. 

I did not always cry out to God when I was grieving my dad. I was not angry with Him. I have fully analyzed that to be sure. If I had been, we would have worked through it. He is not shocked by our anger, and He still loves us even when we're mad at Him. But I wasn't mad. I was just too tired to ask for help. I didn't feel like it. I just wanted to get away from everybody and go to sleep for a very long time. 

But after about nine months and some counseling, I was ready to do something. I was ready to touch the things that reminded me of him, and try something meaningful. So, as the fall weather settled in, I gathered up Dad's shirts and started cutting. I cut and pieced and cried. Every shirt was a memory--a look, a joke, a day in the life of someone I loved so much.

My dad never got rid of his clothes. When he got new ones, the old would go down in the basement. These would become his "worky hard" shirts, as he used to say to my little brother, Josh. They were his mowing the lawn, washing the car, lifting weights, cleaning his guns, and puttering around shirts. We had seen him wear these same shirts for 20 or 30 years. They were so familiar. They are still. I made three bags  out of them--one for each of us kids. 

Each square is a step back in time. See that brown one? That was a t-shirt he wore so many times, it was tissue paper thin. It had a piece of popcorn stuck to it that I found while cutting. Anyone might have thought I'd found a hundred dollar bill. I was so excited about that piece of popcorn. How old was it? What movie was he watching when it landed there? It made me remember the way he would laugh when he watched W.C. Fields or the Trinity Boys. He would eat popcorn, laugh until he cried, and then inevitably hiccup for awhile after.

 Man, I love that guy.

The inside of each bag is lined with his robe--the old, fuzzy robe he used to wear on Christmas mornings. Every Christmas morning, Dad put on his robe, made a pot of coffee, tuned the radio to Christmas music, and settled into his recliner to watch his family enjoy the Christmas fun. 

Making these bags was emotionally difficult, but it was a kind of therapy. It made me think of things from an eternal perspective, too. I was so struck by the reality that Dad is not wearing these clothes anymore. He has new ones. The Bible tells us that. At that point in my life, I had never used writing as an outlet, but I felt inspired to write something down about my time with Dad's shirts.

An Eternal Thread  

Your clothes...
were more than fabrics
or coverings.

After years of wearing,
they soaked up your personality and character
while you worked and played and loved and laughed.

They became a part of who you are.

The fabric of your life here was
good, strong, honest, faithful, and loving.

These pieces of cloth come together
to remind us,
to comfort,
to reveal something new...

We will always remember you in your Christmas robe,
but imagine you now
in a robe of righteousness
and a garment of salvation.

An eternal thread connects us now. 

Before I move on, I just want to say this:  If you are grieving right now, did you know you are blessed? That doesn't sound right does it? Jesus said it, and so much of what He said seems really backwards. I did not feel blessed when I was grieving. I felt sad. I felt like the pain might rip my heart right open. But since Jesus said it, I feel it is worth examining a bit.

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted" (Matthew 5:4). I look at this verse, and think, "Yeah, well, I still would rather not mourn at all." It is hard. It is work. It drains. But then, how else could we know about His comfort? And that's where the blessing comes in. There is no comfort like the comfort of the Holy Spirit. That is part of His job description, and He is really good at it. The Father's heart is so tender toward us, that when we are hurting, I believe we become extra-special to Him. It is a privileged place to be. The Bible says that the Lord is close to the broken-hearted. Don't you give your own children or other loved ones extra time and attention when they are hurting? How much more He loves us! How much better and greater is His compassion towards us. I know, now, from experience what a blessing His comfort is. Though I would never choose grief willingly, I trust now that He is close to me when it comes again.


After I finished the bags, I looked at my sewing machine and wondered what else it could do. I hadn't sewed since I was a kid in 4-H. I started cranking out stuffed animals for my kids, pillows for my couch, bags and purses for my friends, and clothes for Sara's dolls. I had discovered a fun new hobby. Look at this neat picture my friend Kris painted to hang above my sewing closet:
Sewing makes me feel connected to my dad somehow. And I like to pray for the people I am sewing for while the machine is whirring away.

So, to celebrate my dad's birthday,and because I can't give him a present, I made something to give to one of you! 
This is the Wild and Crazy Overnight Bag,

for any of you colorful gals who like to take an overnight trip every now and then.

So, if you'd like this bag for yourself or to give as a gift, just leave me one comment, and you may win!

You can tell me where you'd like to go overnight with this bag. Or if you are feeling deep and thoughtful, you could tell me what meaningful ways you have discovered to help you through a hurting time. Any old comment will do to get you entered! I hope you win.



  1. Rachelle, What a beautiful tribute to your dad. Thank you for telling us. Niki

  2. Oh wow Rachelle!!!! What a great way to remember your Dad!!! I would love to take a trip with Ben and Addison somewhere that's beautiful in the fall, doesn't matter where, just somewhere that's peaceful!!!

  3. Rachelle, Your work is beautiful. Your tribute, your words, your bag, your children, your spirit, your life...all beautiful. Thank you.

  4. So, you probably already know where I would go on an overnight (or two) trip and what exactly I would do there!
    When my heart hurts, as it has from time to time, I run directly to the throne of grace from which His fount flows eternal. If I am too tired to stand, I sit and if I am too tired to sit I lay down. I lay it all down. I cast it on Him because He cares for me. I learned recently from Hebrews 2:10 that Christ was perfected through His suffering and I can be too.
    Love you girl!

  5. Beautiful Rachelle, what a beautiful heart you have, that the Lord has given you and blessed us all with by your life! I have to confess that I love reading your blog (probably in hopes that maybe alittle bit of you would rub off on me). Thanks for Honoring your Dad today :)

  6. Rachelle - I remember your Dad as being the loving, Godly, gentle man you wrote about. What a neat idea to make something for your two sibs and yourself from his clothes. Everytime they use their bags they'll remember the occasions when he wore them.

    If I win the bag I'll take it to Australia when we go.

  7. Wow, what a wonderful tribute to your father and his life. I lost my dad 9 years ago to that horrible disease known as Alhemezers. I lost him long before he was gone. It was very difficult for me as I was his shadow growing up and became the one he seemed to hate in his last days. I was told time and time again, they hurt the one the love. That may have been true, but it didn't stop the pain I felt. I know my father would have never done anything to hurt me or cause me the pain he did. I loved him and still do to this day. I will some day have the opportunity to see him again and walk and talk with him in heaven. I now have five beautiful grandchildren that I'm sure he knew before me. He also has three others that just didn't make it to birth here on this earth. I'm sure he is enjoying them and loving them. As I read this, I couldn't help but cry. Because I know the pain you went through, and the healing our Lord Jesus Christ gave you. Thank you for sharing this. May God continue to bless you. Debbie Constanzo

  8. Wow Rachelle! I lost my mom to cancer in '85 and my dad to Alzheimer's in '05. With both of them, the ability to grieve did not come until MONTHS afterwards. I also was just too exhausted to deal with that right away. The neat thing is that EVENTUALLY you do get to a place where, while you still miss them, it no longer hurts to think about them. I have the UGLIEST pig cookie jar that was my mom's from the time I was a kid (yes, it's getting a BIT old). It's cracked, doesn't clean up very well anymore, but it has always had an honored place somewhere in my kitchen. It makes me smile and I think of her every time I see it. Thanks for the happy tears today!

  9. Your talent never ceases to amaze me. This is beautiful!! You should set yourself up on Etsy.

    Your blog made me cry. There is a song by Eva Cassidy that always makes me think of you and your family this time of year, and remember your dad. It's called "I Know You By Heart." Have you ever heard it? It's beautiful. If you haven't heard it before, let me know and I'll make sure you do!

  10. Rachell,

    My dear friend Rachelle! What a blessing you are! What a gift, a treasure! Your Dad and our Heavenly Father is so pleased by your heart-- I just know it!!!! You really have such an amazing heart! I hope who ever wins the bag travels hand in hand with the Lord each day! Love you, Nicole!
    (sorry this is Nicole not Andy!)

  11. There is something so special in clothing that belongs to someone you love. Dad used to get so frustrated with Liz & me for "stealing" his shirts to wear! I don't know why we thought we looked so great in shirts that were down to our knees, but they were DAD'S shirts, therefore they were awesome.
    When Grandmother died, I held on to many of her outfits & sweaters, even though I had no intention of wearing them. It was enough just to look at them, and to remember how gracious & beautiful she'd looked wearing those clothes.
    I love what you've done to make useable keepsakes out of your dad's shirts.

  12. To anyone reading my comment, I want to tell you something else about our dad. To me, one of the biggest things about him was his spirit of generosity. As I grew up, I watched him give and give, and give some more. I remember about a year before he died, he forgot and accidentally left the garage door open overnight. He woke up to find many of his power tools and other expensive items stolen. I will never forget what he said. He said that he felt so sorry for the person who stole his belongings - someone so desperate and hurting to be driven to steal, that he wished he knew who it was so that he could find them and give them the rest...the rest of the things out of his garage that they could not carry.

    This generosity is something that I pray that my children will carry as his legacy. To give as Jesus would have given. To love and give from the heart. And it makes me smile real big to see it in my sister. Giving, giving, giving, just like her Dad.

    So Happy Birthday to my Dad, who would be so proud of his daughter, who has made a beautiful birthday gift today - given in a spirit of generosity and love. Whoever wins this bag will carry a tribute to my Dad wherever they go. I love that.

  13. Your father was blessed with two very precious loving daughters. I'm sure he has on more then one occasion shared with those in heaven how much he loves you. I can just see him now smiling and pointing down and saying to those around him, "look there are my beautiful daughters, aren't the wonderful." God bless you both. Debbie

  14. Thank you for sharing your rememberance of your dad. My mom died 20 years ago at the age of 58 to cancer. There are good days and there are not so good when I miss her so. But I know where she is and I can find peace.

    Where would I go with that wonderful bag? Well, if it were summer, it would be Table Rock lake......but since it's fall, I'm all for a wonderful place with lots of beautiful, colorful leaves and some that are already crunchy on the ground to rake and jump in (I used to play for hours in the leaves when I was a kid!). Bless you my friend. Teresa Stangl

  15. Holly, I also love the story YOU shared about your dad. What an example for all of us. He sure did hit the jackpot with you two! :-)

  16. Rachelle, you are such a talented, gifted woman! What a an awesome way to keep your dad's memory alive for you kids by making those bag's for them out of his shirts!

    What a cute cute bag! I would take that wonderful bag with me when I haul all my books, Bible, and journal to a coffee shop for a few hours of quiet time with the Lord.

    Love you! Thanks for sharing your heart!

  17. Love this post and the wonderful tribute to your dad. I miss my parents still, but find comfort in knowing they are with the Lord. I see my sweet grandson and so much wish my mom could have seen him - especially after she had 2 daughters and 3 granddaughters, she would so love having a little boy around.

    If I won that bag, I would take it on a trip to go see Charlie when he is on the road. And in taking it, remember not only that you made it in honor of your dad, but remember the fun time we had celebrating my birthday with you this year.

  18. Rachelle, watching you and Holly be there for your dad and then grieve when he passed away was so tough. Little did I know that I was being prepared to walk with Scott thru losing his dad this year. Each time I work in Scott's Dad's garden now - trying my best to get it even a little under control I think I feel a bit like you with that fabric...I struggle with the sadness of knowing his hands will never care for those plants again and yet I'm honored to be there were he once was.

    Thank you for the example of Christ's love and strength that both you and Holly are to me. You truly have a God-given talent to take little random pieces of fabric and turn them into such amazing treasures. ..Seems a lot like what Christ does to each of us.

  19. Oh, goody! it is a purse giveaway!!!!! So long I have waited for this moment! OKAY. I will leave a comment---though i guess i always did comment saying i would comment only if you were giving away one of your purses, which I adore. I love the overnight bag, i love the post, i love your dad, and i love you!
    Maybe you will love this verse from Isaiah 45:3. It sank in with me yesterday; a reminder of the goodness God works through life's toughtest times.
    "I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name."
    I think your purses (all your sewing) are one of the tangible treasures that came out your darkness...amongst much deeper things:) Over the past several years I have watched beauty spring from ashes and new life is great to see.

  20. It is amazing to know that God knew you before you were formed. He knew that the talent he so masterfully gave you would be a comfort to so many. You have been entrusted with the gift of sharing your blessings. He also knew what a treasure you were to your dad - just like the shirts your dad kept & used because they had value - you are still giving His love to others through your life experiences.

  21. Such a beautiful bag. I would take it to visit my best friend!

  22. Even when I can't get away(mommy of two), this would be just the right bag to remind me of how life gives us fun and zany moments that make everyday an adventure.

  23. Such an amazing way to pay tribute to your dad and yet share with others your gift of sewing. I have to admit, I have saved 100's of my kiddos outfits in hopes to one day have them made into something since I can't part with them. And my girls are healthy and here where I can hug them and squeeze them, so the idea of you remembering your dad in this way, that is very amazing !:) - Jules Reimann

  24. Rachelle, this was such a beautiful blog and I was blessed to read it. I am fascinated by the movement of God in our dark times. There is something about it that cannot be described, only experienced. But, then again, I felt I it again as I was reading tonight so maybe I just can't express it. I thought again tonight about a verse a mentor brought to me in Nahum chapter 1:3, 'His way is in the whirlwind and the storm and the clouds are the dust of His feet.' Though it is painful, how will we ever know His way if we're never in the storm? Thanks again for this! (if I win, I think I'll have to give this bag to Jill-she's just so excited!!)

  25. Hi Rachelle,
    You have a reader way out in Utah! I think it's great God led you back into sewing as a way to honor your dad, as well as produce positive things out of significant loss. And creating is so God-like, for obvious reasons.
    ps I don't remember my Google account bit, thus the 'anonymous' signature. Let's blame my missing thyroid.

  26. Rachelle,
    You are a true treasure! Your dad is smiling right now and eating a little popcorn as he watches over you and reads what you write daily. What an awesome gift he has given his family-love and real generosity! Now-in this world we are lacking in both. However, I have watched your blog grow... so you have the God given ability and talent to reach out and touch people with what your dad instilled in you. I am so proud of you! Everytime I read this perfect blog of wonderful words, stories, pictures and thoughts I am so happy and feel so energized and loved. Thank you for being you!! Thanks for honoring your father and creating a masterpiece of love. Thank you for sharing the word of the Lord-you put the pep back in my step!!

  27. You are like none other Rachelle Gilbert! A masterpiece. Praise to God for His healing, His comfort, His love, His leading, His steady hand, His grace and His faithfulness. I'm left wordless at the beauty of it all.

  28. You are one of the most wonderful people I have had the pleasure of calling a friend. You are an inspiration, a wonderful mom and a great person. Just being the way you are helps more people than you realize.

  29. What a wonderful inspiration! It warmed my heart to read that. Thank you for sharing.

  30. You are a beautiful person. I am partially disabled (can't stand very long to teach anymore) and need to do something to help my hubby out with expenses. So I returned to sewing after a long time as you did. . Since my Grandmother was my sewing inspiration and my mother gave me the love of all fabrics (especially vintage) I want to name my little hobby after them or linked to them. Your post was so inspiring and beautiful and I came to it through your cute wise owl. Love the fact that you share your talents and wisdom.


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