Writers Doubt This

by Elly Brosius, M.S.

If a writing project has carried you into a place of confusion and doubt, congratulations and keep going. That dark place might be crushing you, and it might just be crucial for creating an unusually fine product. Try showing it some hospitality.

The piece in question might have to get where it’s going in it’s own time. It might have to be something a bit or quite different. If you keep going, you may not even recognize where you end up until you get there and it feels like home. Keep the faith in the finish; release some ideas you had at the start.

In his book The Fifth Agreement, don Miguel Ruiz depicts doubt as a tool to discern the truth. “Doubt takes us behind the words we hear to the underlying real message or intent.” He continues, doubt “makes you responsible for every message you deliver and receive,” and that’s where the stress lies. Projects get stuck. Some thing or some direction of the piece or your self talk about it isn’t ringing true to you or the final product. The upside is the upset brings the energy needed to keep moving through to create the words and feelings of “The End.”

Writer’s doubt is a common experience, a common, awful experience. Every time it happens, it is so uncomfortable one can’t fathom it might well be the next and normal step to evolving themselves and/or their project. It scares, frustrates, and confuses. Encouraging blogs and writing classes have great tips, but, even with such help, writing paralysis or destruction can prevail.

Writers doubt that doubt has purpose, or, at least, that it can be channeled to advantage. Doubt is not, however, some simple lever-like tool you can use to pry out your next sentence. Doubt is heavy machinery from the intuition power tool workshop. Sometimes power tools are intimidating or impossible to wield. Sometimes they hurt the user or people nearest. Often they are fundamental to building amazing works of art and function.

Bloggers with tips for the dilemmas of doubt are sharing them in a “Writers Crushing Doubt” contest by Positive Writer. This is my contest entry. Read all entries at positivewriter.com/writing-contest-2016/.

Writer’s doubt descends upon me usually after I’ve written to abundance and culled enough to start sensing satisfaction, when I can see being done if only I could connect the loose ends. When they are not fit to be tied, I get angry and lose my flow trying to force my original ideas into fruition.

The harder I try the cloudier it all gets. Doubts reign. I question until I question everything. I wonder if the work could have any use to anyone. The clouds only clear when I realize my confusion is a reflection of something off in the writing that demands clarity now for my future audience even if I don’t know what that is yet.

The writing assignment I first cared enough to confuse myself to the core for was in twelfth grade English class taught by Dr. Brown, a petite woman with a pixie haircut who made small earrings look big. She commanded our attention and respect for her title.

It was an uncomfortable class demanding personal growth with a teacher reaching in to know us, reading into the stories of our lives. I found myself frustrated, frightened, and infuriated with the grades she gave. I struggled to understand what the doctor needed from me for things to be well. I couldn’t see how weak my self expression was. I used school to grow and learn, but also to avoid thinking about home and health problems, emotional and spiritual issues that would take 20 years to begin to sort.

A book report assignment became my self-imposed proving ground for figuring out how to write in her class. I don’t recall the book. I recall the intensity, the shaking, cold sweating, soreness, the driving effort, and collapsing into confusion.

I read, and when I thought I understood, I wrote. Writing led to knowing I didn’t yet understand so I read and researched more. The more I researched, the more clear things seemed. The more I wrote, the more I had to rewrite and remove what didn’t matter anymore.

Desperate for a grade above average, a zero for giving up not being an option, I summoned additional adrenaline to keep going. Finally, I wondered if writing about the confusing and conflicted ideas I now held were the point, the crux to write about. I couldn’t stand firm on just one thing the author said. The story was messy, complicated, rich, and all aspects needed their due.

I detached, wrote more free of judgment, included more observation and less concrete conclusion. I found an end. It was different than anything I’d ever written or expected I’d write. I was out of time and out of ideas for simplifying. I couldn’t go back to floating on the surface or circling a singularity of a subject. I had put enough hours and life force in for ten assignments and a new truth about things being less black or white for me had emerged from the deep. While the specifics of that paper remain out of focus in my mind, I can still see in crisp clear lines the tiny red 95 returned in its upper left margin.

photo of woman inviting one into her front door
Doubt brings great gifts. Let it enter to win.©Piotr Marcinski via Adobe Stock

Confusion and doubt tooled me. They began my writing evolution, prepared me to eventually use them as tools. Doubt impressed upon me then and numerous times since its value as a guidance system. It does seem counterproductive to be a welcoming and grateful host to such a dreadful feeling meaning
there is more work to be done. But after bouts with doubt show no progress, be inviting. Let doubt tool you for certain change.

©Elly Brosius, 2016. All rights reserved. Excerpting is allowed with credit and direction to original content. For reprint permission, contact@intersectingstories.com. Featured photo ©krung99 via Adobe Stock.

Affirmation Quilt Ministry – In The Garden Of Life

by Elly Brosius, MS

I didn’t meet quilter Eileen Melia until after friend and support group co-facilitator Toni Marshall and I had been taking traditional medicine for a year, after we had been actively practicing gratitude for longer. An attitude of gratitude as medicine led us to a new practitioner with ancient, more successful treatment than what we had already tried. The customized herbal formulas from the Vietnam trained acupuncturist now at The Gilbert Clinic strengthened us, stabilized us enough to start a sister support group, one for officially practicing gratitude in a group intent on healing. That turn of events brought Eileen to us, presumably as life was preparing her to meet us, and we all started exchanging our gifts.

Made for Me In The Garden of Life

Photo of the Meditation for the In the Garden of Life Quilt
The surprise package of the In The Garden Of Life affirmation quilt by Eileen Melia.

The affirmation quilt built for me, In the Garden of Life, arrived at my Virginia home in March 2013. Eileen tried to make a quilt for me sooner, before Toni’s Serendipitous Graces emerged, but the timing worked out according to its own sacred schedule. Now three years after I have received it, my quilt is still on my mind and has a hold on my heart. The sowed sewn seeds grew and bloomed into this series of blogs on her Affirmation Quilt Ministry as the thank you note and love you letter I haven’t been able to write until now.

Like the curling, curving parallel ribbons in my quilt, Eileen and I are on curvy parallel paths providing others with opportunities to see more holy in the mundane, to see some ethereal in the material. She sows seeing appreciation with her stitches and meditations, and she shines her enthusiasm and light on how to see more than the seams. My online writing group and my conference calls for gratitude are for fortifying one another’s faith that there is more than what seems at every twist and turn.

Detail Photo of In The Garden Of Life Affirmation Quilt by Eileen Melia
Close up of In The Garden Of Life Affirmation Quilt by Eileen Melia

The Celtic Ribbons pattern Eileen chose for me with all those intersections suits my focus on the intersections of stories. The corners where the light green ribbons meet the dark green ribbons remind me of partners, square dancing elbow in elbow, swinging on home together.

Looking at the only the light green or only the dark green ribbons I see curvy parallels going diagonally from point A to point B in a sine wave of sorts and I think about metaphorical life parallel. In the big picture view, if I step way, way, way back, I can see I’ve been on a beeline to places and states I needed to visit. It sometimes felt like I was going nowhere. I often worried I’d never get anywhere I wanted to go. I became lightheaded and unsteady on my feet when going around and around, trying to escape on a tangent, or downward spiraling. Turns out, all the zigzagging, the stepping up and stepping down, and the spinning around various themes has a central line taking me somewhere divine after all: a life capable of heaven on earth moments

Ties that Bind, Bound by Ribbons

Writing is something Eileen and I both do because we feel compelled to write about certain subjects at certain times. We both have shared long and short pieces people save for years and quote back to us. In the ribbons of this quilt that connects us, I visualize yards and yards of typewriter ribbons keeping impressions of the letters we shared.

The In The Garden of Life’s meditation for me and my work with people with ME ends with

“As the final stitches of this binding were hand sewn they became a prayer for you, Elly, that the God of all love, the God of all hope, and the God of all peace be a constant well source of abundant blessings as the journey continues.
Eileen Melia
PS – This quilt is washer and dryer safe.”

God blessed, machine washable, and dryer safe, a holy trinity! The invisible layer of sacred batting can take the floods and it can take the heat; this quilt can protect the threads of my being.

Ideas about bindings, being bound, covers and recovering are sprouting in my mind now. Eileen’s quilt bindings have invisible, hand sewn, loving and prayerful stitches and seeds and her precious printed words are protected and bound with clear report covers and brightly colored binding bars. The quilted bed or lap cover and report package bind Eileen to a recipient in story even as she offers complete freedom, the gift of no strings attached. Opening the clear covers to read and reread the words and getting under the covers of an affirmation quilt can lead to recovering of energy one didn’t know was lost.

We often have met folks when they are in a bind health wise and needing new help, Eileen through her nursing and various volunteering and me at the ME/CFS and Orthostatic Intolerance (OI) support groups. We continue this journey bound together now, and homeward bound.

photo of In The Garden of Life quilt
In The Garden Of Life Affirmation Quilt by Eileen Melia

Not washed yet, my quilt stays safely away from dust and a dog with must-destroy-fabric-and-fiberfill tendencies. Maybe I also hid it because its vast love and meanings have been too much to encounter in my everyday up until now. I visit with it on occasion. I take it out for photo sessions in different kinds of light. I spend time pondering the photos searching for patterns In the Garden of Life for visual clues to my wordy journey. The intricate quilt style is known by many names, Celtic Ribbons, Scrap Ribbons, Loose Ends. Curiously, searching images on the web I could only find one other that was of the same pattern. I am growing into being comforted continuously by my nearly unique and complicated quilt, its personal meanings and universal messages. I am tying up my inner life’s loose ends for experiencing more wholeness and holiness.

My favorite whole quilt photos are the ones included here on stairs. The way the ribbons move also look like stairs to me and speak to me of the ascending and descending that happens, sometimes daily, on the journey.

These Are a Few of My favorite Greens

“Elly, you once told me that green was a favorite color of yours. I hope that this variety of greens brings a warm smile to your heart. I found this Empower Yourself With Color Psychology website insightful and thought you would enjoy their perspective on the color green.”

photo of back of In The Garden of Life quilt
Back of In The Garden Of Life Affirmation Quilt by Eileen Melia

I did and I do. And I am glad we got good and specific about which greens were my favorites. Forest green tops my list. Restful, for rest, forest green. While I enjoy the fluorescent lime green fabric that starred in Toni Marshall’s beautiful Serendipitous Graces quilt, I might find that green too bold for rest. Toni talks often of experiencing happiness now she never knew earlier in life. Lime’s boldness and association with happiness symbolism suits her. The variety of greens in my quilt suit me for rest, minty freshness, and hints of sage.

Seeds of healing were planted long ago in my garden of life, in rows for personal growth, in rows for sharing experience, and in rows for gratitude, acceptance, and non-jugment. It has been long enough now for there to be flowers and lush greenery. God knows I watered the seedlings and tended my tenderness. I watered myself through the years of chronic dehydration and a dehydrated soul situation. When I shared the quilt photos another group member deep in the dehydrated feelings right now, she said, “That is beautiful. I can’t feel that it’s beautiful right now, but I can see it.”

Photo of In The Garden of Life Affirmation Quilt heart.
In The Garden Of Life signature heart.

When first received, I couldn’t yet see the quilt’s beauty as a whole work. I couldn’t hear all The Meditation was saying. It was too much to take in. I was too close. I was still too closed off. In my first few photo sessions with the quilt, images came out with dim lighting and with unpleasing angles. I knew it to be a masterpiece of love, gratitude, and meaning, but I couldn’t yet picture all the ways. Now I can see it, write of it, picture it.

Before the light turns green to go to what’s next, to see more close ups and read the full Meditation for Elly Brosius, In the Garden of Life Quilt, there is a bit more beating about the bush I will do. I need to point out something about that bright and dark mottled green fabric of the dark green ribbons. Unbeknownst to Eileen, I had a stash of that fabric. I love that pattern and color! I am sure I either bought it on more than one occasion, or wanted to. All I probably could manage to do with it was drape it on household clutter to hide the mess. I couldn’t, still can’t sit long enough to sew much. When sitting up straight, I can get to feeling awful and can’t sew in straight lines. Trying to sit up sometimes invites my struggling circulation to turn my skin a mottled dusky purple. The dusky mottled favorite green fabric will forever be a reminder not to push myself to the point of being noticeably mottled myself. By the time one’s skin gets mottled, by the time one is looking blue, there is some crisis within to listen to and treat with rest or something else.

Fine pink flowers are featured in not one, not two, but three fabrics chosen for my affirmation quilt including the most used background and border material. Pink is budding almost everywhere. Love that after all the years playing the blues and literally looking a little blue. By respecting my limits, listening within and honoring what I hear, surrounding myself in colors for rest and rejuvenation, using unusual forms of medicine, I am rewarded with pink buds and feeling a little in the pink.

Many thanks to Eileen R. Melia for effectively ministering to me and so many others with her affirmation quilts and meditations; for granting permission to share our intersecting stories; for supplying quotes full of her characteristic enthusiasm, validating insights, and encouragement; and for finding and sending historical photos full of color, pattern, and metaphor. Being gifted In the Garden of Life and getting to write about it with loving hands of sisterly support assisting behind the scenes has been a blessing received for empowering a calmer heart rhythm for me. With the graces of synchronicity, healing energy of love, and nurturing mother energy, I have more experience of the capital lettered word PEACE Eileen has sewn onto the back of countless world map quilt offerings to laureates, spiritual leaders, educators, and poets. Eileen excitedly and continuously affirms the constructive works of others. May my words affirm her inspired ministry.

©Elly Brosius, 2016. All rights reserved. Excerpting is allowed with credit and direction to original content. For full reprint permission, contact@intersectingstories.com. Photos by Eileen Melia and Elly Brosius.

Affirmation Quilt Ministry – Serendipitous Graces

Photo of Eileen Melia and Toni Marshall
Eileen Melia and Toni Marshall, July 2007, in Chantilly, VA, at a Northern VA CFS/ME, FMS, & OI Support Group meeting.

by Elly Brosius, MS

My friend Eileen Melia is unique quilter who pieces together material, meditations, and motherly outreach. Fabric selection, sewing, and writing appreciative, enthusiastic words and symbolism for the ultimate receivers are all part of her Affirmation Quilt Ministry.

Through our occasional in-person encounters at our ME/CFS support group and a Writing Grace transformational class with Alissa Lukara, and via our conference calls and shared writing for practicing gratefulness in my gratitude group, Eileen, Toni and I reached new levels of comfort and understanding and acceptance. It deepened our friendships and gave Eileen more insight into the years of and ongoing support group volunteerism by Toni Marshall and me, Elly Brosius. We answered the calls others didn’t.

Eileen’s quilts for Toni and me came in their own special timing, for Eileen to make them, and for us to receive them physically.

Appliquéd signature heart of Serendipitous Graces Quilt
Appliquéd Signature Heart of Serendipitous Graces
We are still working on emotional and spiritual ways of receiving such loving gifts of intricate, intimate, intense, and physically, spiritually upright work. I am still moving and moved through feelings and healing experiences by knowing of the gifts of
Empowering Hearts Rhythm with
Blessed Offerings and Loving Hands,
finding Serendipitous Graces In The Garden of Life.

Serendipitous Graces

Toni’s Serendipitous Graces quilt came in June 2012, exactly seven years after we met Eileen for the first time face to face at a kNOw More CFS event our Northern VA CFS/ME, FMS, and OI Support Group co-sponsored with The CFIDS Association of America before they rebranded to be the Solve ME/CFS Initiative. The speakers were validating, expert, and provided excellent information on research and on the practical aspects of living more comfortably with orthostatic intolerance (OI), our preferred and most practical for treatment diagnosis. The speakers became two of Toni’s favorite professionals to quote, Cindy Bateman, MD, now of The Batemman Horne Center in Salt Lake City, UT, and Staci Stevens, MA, of the Workwell Foundation. I remember Toni staying up late at my house the night before that kNOw More CFS event practicing an introductory speech over and over. I knew I couldn’t handle public speaking, standing still, and breathing all at the same time. She stepped up in front of all to make the introductory remarks.

In the writings that came with Serendipitous Graces, Eileen wrote to Toni of another introduction, one inspiration for the quilt:

“You, Toni, introduced me to Laurel Burch. You talked about the beauty of her art, jewelry, pocketbooks, and cards. [After, at a store] called *Happy, Joyous, and Free,* I saw gorgeous cards. I came across one by Laurel Burch. It made my day. Not only did I admire the artistic intermingling of colors and the inspirational message but the story on the back of the card *(“The Heart of Human Being”)* was wonderful. … Laurel Burch’s story spoke to my heart. Laurel’s card inspired my mind in the design, and lent my hands strength in the mechanics, of bringing this quilt to fruition.”

I think that might just be a colorful Laurel Burch people shirt Toni is wearing in the photo above. Here are more colorful and insightful quotes from Eileen to Toni:

“The lime green is bright, bold, and stands out. In other words, it is like you, Toni! You listen, you share, you comment and you are like a bright neon sign of possibilities.”

“The orange spider webbed material tells the tale of the web of life. … Orange is a color worn by monks to demonstrate warmth, enthusiasm, humility, and connection to the universe where they search for wisdom, strength, and dignity. The Chronic Fatigue Support Group, and your important role as a key provider of support, illustrates how for people with CFS, being available to each other in person, by phone, or through “web connections” is essential. Toni, I know and truly appreciate all the time and talent that you expend in exploring and sharing your finds by your web surfing. Keep those spider legs/fingers weaving the golden threads of hope and love as we are all blessed.”

Photo close up of the Serendipitous Graces quilt.
Close up of the Serendipitous Graces quilt by Eileen Melia, Affirmation Quilt Ministry

“The dotted materials are all those pointed moments in time when one might need space and time to refresh one self. Solitude can enhance one’s ability to reflect and make soulful choices when one steps back from the frays of life.”

Photo of Serendipitous Graces Quilt
Serendipitous Graces Quilt by Eileen Melia, Affirmation Quilt Ministry.

Eileen included a passage she had written during the Writing Grace workshop with Alissa Lukara about how Toni personally helped her.

“I called and she listened. She listened to me trying to articulate a deep yearning of understanding my own authentic voice which has tried to be “good” for soooooo long. … Now is the time to come forth and acknowledge to _*myself my gifts*_. She suggested practicing saying yes to various monetary offers which I would have considered outrageously exorbitant in my “good catholic self.” She heard if I hesitated and kept encouraging my practice of YES. She listened and has assisted in the emergence and affirmation of a part of myself which I have undervalued. … She listened and I felt heard.”

Amen. I live in continual thanks for how much Toni has listened to me and my processing of life. Difficult experiences and difficult people necessitated and shaped her gift, but it was the intense work she did to hone the skills of a listener that taught her to so skillfully inject suggestions and motherly kindness when spirit or intuition so move her. I am pleased and grateful Toni’s gifts and her quilt came before me and mine.

©Elly Brosius, 2016. All rights reserved. Excerpting is allowed with credit and direction to original content. For full reprint permission, contact@intersectingstories.com. Photos supplied by Eileen Melia and Toni Marshall.

Affirmation Quilt Ministry – Mother Energy

Photo: Eileen MeliaPhoto: Toni MarshallPhoto: Elly Brosius

Portraits from a July 2007 visit to an open house of The Gilbert Clinic in Maryland:
Eileen Melia, Toni Marshall, and Elly Brosius, a rare instance of same time, same place.

by Elly Brosius, MS

Intersecting Stories about Affirmation Ministry Quilts and Meditations by Eileen Melia usually feature the quilts and writings with colorful photos and quotes. This one is more about the quilt maker and meditation writer, Eileen, and two leaders of a support group she joined to whom she gave quilts and writings. It brought to you by the letters M and E.

Eileen, Toni, Me, and ME

Eileen, Toni, and I have an uncommon condition in common. Much of the world refers to it simply as myalgic encephalomyelitis or ME. Here in the USA, you see more ME/CFS. We each have our own expressions for it and of it. The myriad of names and the seemingly infinite ways it can affect a person are an ever evolving story for another day or blog.

We came to know one other mostly by phone, a few times in person, and some by e-mail. Each of us was too ill usually for the upright posture and stamina required by in person visits. With our heightened nervous system responses and sensitivities to lights, sounds, smells, foods, uprightness and stress, physical meeting was too risky to our precarious functioning. Read Chronic Fatigue Syndrome isn’t what you think it is – it’s much worse by Stephanie Land in a HuffPost Healthly Living blog for a March 2016 view on ME/CFS.

In ME, energy feels either non-existent, inaccessible, or unable to flow constructively, to varying degrees. That’s what it feels like to me. When some of us in the smaller support group using gratitude for healing committed to techniques and attitudes to support energy instead of depleting it, our lives got less scrappy, some symptoms even lessened. We are grateful for any miracles of relief like those. Many folks with our conditions only experience getting worse over time or being stuck.

If I were to design an art project for Eileen, Toni, and me, it would have an ME in the title to honor the ME condition in our journeys. Additionally I would highlight another ME, one that stands for Mother Energy. Noticing, nurturing, and celebrating the healing aspects of more unconditional mother energy is a key to ever ascending quality of lives.

“Dear Elly,” wrote Eileen starting the cover letter accompanying my In The Garden of Life quilt.

“This quilt is made with heartfelt admiration and appreciation for your staunch spirit which belies the multitude of physical challenges that CFS/ME, FM and OI presents. Your spirit is a testimony of your care and nurturance of others who are similarity afflicted.”

Mother Energy

Not all mother energy is in an uncorrupted, able to help heal something state. Some mother energy smothers or otherwise creates new upsets or activates old wounds. Being at the ready point to heal our own mother energy and share the most whole version of it with others, Eileen, Toni, and I practice the ways of being more unconditional with each other. As we welcome more divine versions of Mother Energy in and through, our conditioning and our conditions have eased.

While I was blessed with a loving mother, an awesome godmother, supportive, fabulous aunts and friend of the family “aunts,” Eileen is a mother and godmother figure I accept into my life consciously as an adult. Toni offers me experienced mother wisdom and a person with whom to work out godmother and Mother God issues.

Eileen has more life experience than I, more job experience, more people experience, experience with kids and grandchildren. When she worked, she was a nurse, as my mother’s mother was. I feel a feminine, maternal, medicinally nurturing vibe with her. She doesn’t judge me. And, as she wasn’t responsible for physically raising me, we didn’t have to go through the tensions of testing boundaries.

Toni has an offspring just younger than I. Toni has more job and life experience. She shares and listens and laughs. We can laugh, cry, shout, cuss, and be honest about things never said aloud be. We can talk of things we never knew as motherly or sisterly in our experiences on the earth plane.

Eileen and Toni honor and support the mother figuring I do in phone calls and in the support group setting. They let me know how important it was for them to experience my watching over them and out for them when they joined the group.

Eileen sends childless me a Mother’s Day card every year and it just feels right, not ironic. She encourages me and thanks the mother in me. She sees beyond traditional definitions and she senses the motherly archetypes in play. Her greeting cards are an important piece of the affirmation ministry to me. When quilting is too demanding, we remind her the gifts of her cards are special and enough!

Doubled Over and Lifted Up

Frequently doubled over ill and dysfunctional though most don’t see or acknowledge it, we homebound women are taking the time and energy to value ourselves and each other as is and to value and our own and each other’s present gifts. That’s pretty special in the ME world. We notice how our gifts might not have been expressed the same way had we not had set-backs and must-sit-downs, need-to-lie-flats or else. The same sensitivities that kept us away from sounds, flickering lights, and perfumed parts of the world have unusual upsides critically needed in an often insensitive world. We’re doubled over, and we’re lifted up by what what down there and who we found who was also down and out.

For shifting a painful or high pressure symptom, one technique I came up with is saying “I welcome you” to it with panache. People roll their eyes until I explain how just like they like being heard, so do their symptoms. Symptoms are the body’s communication they have been played them down or ignored them completely. Even when complained about loudly and acknowledging something is wrong, a push through mentality and reality has been necessary.

Something is going on that needs observation and different attention. To coax out the information to change things, a big gesture or olive branch to the body might be required. What gets people to try it is when I give them permission to make the hurting sounds that go with the symptoms and use swear words if that helps. For example, “Iiiiiieee owwwww bleeping welllllcommmmmmme you.” Eileen reminds me my vocal demonstration on an Elly’s Gratitude Group (EGG) conference call was quite memorable and helped her do it and through it to eventual release and benefit.

Blanket Acceptance

In the EGG, we attempt to value acceptance of self and whatever’s happened. We are practicing living that acceptance, with gratitude. Physical weakness is an extraordinary fertile place for many kinds of strength to grow. Having to be more and more passive and accommodating to the body’s growing list of what feels like inadequacies can birth new creativity in coping.

When the mind’s ideas and the medical field’s, too, fall short on fixing, one has the option to learn more about heart, feeling, and healing. Receiving and accepting more of what is, as is, especially if one has been an over doer, an over helper, an over giver is vital for recovering energy. Receiving and accepting compliments and gifts in a wholesome way instead of in pieces, instead of with deflection can fill one enough to straighten up after being doubled over from pain or grief.

Eileen’s cards and quilts with meditations inform the chosen recipients about their capacity to receive. Can we accept her blanket approval with our blanket acceptance? Can we handle unconditional Mother Energy? Toni’s affirmation quilt is full of Serendipitous Graces; In the Garden of Life is where we find mine. Both have provided us rich material in answering those questions for ourselves thereby improving our ways of helping ourselves and others receive more. We give information for coping now, we give compliments for what has been managed so far, and we give encouragement that more relief is possible. Receivers take what they can or will. Eileen is playing an important part in Toni’s and my watching over others in the ways that we can, with ME, and with our particular Mother Energy.

©Elly Brosius, 2016. All rights reserved. Excerpting is allowed with credit and direction to original content. For full reprint permission, contact@intersectingstories.com. Photos by Elly Brosius and Toni Marshall.

Affirmation Quilt Ministry – Loving Hands

Photo of Healing Energy of Love Quilt
Healing Energy of Love Quilt by Eileen Melia
One of the first aspects of her ministry Eileen Melia shared with me and our support group friends is of her Healing Energy of Love. The quilt has a large, pink, marbled, valentine heart at its center. Opened hands of all sizes and colors with pinkies overlapping thumbs encircle the heart. The hands and heart are on a white background which is bordered by a calm blue. It was made in 2006. In time, through writing grace, Loving Hands of Healing Energy became an inspiration for an affirmation quilt for one in our circle who feels a special connection to hands.

Writing Grace

Eileen, Toni, Jewels, and I decided to experiment more seriously with writing for healing after having a guest on a conference call meeting for Elly’s Gratitude Group (EGG). The guest, Alissa Lukara, author of Riding Grace, A Triumph of the Soul, read to us amazing passages from her book of life and healing. We enrolled in her workshop called Writing Grace – Writing as a Path to Transform Your Life which suited our long distance situations being in many states and time zones. Assignments were by e-mail and discussed in class teleconferences. (Read about Alissa and classes at the Transformational Writers website.)

Loving Hands of Sisterly Support

The prompts for Writing Grace were challenging. They encouraged us to know ourselves more or differently, to reveal what we could. There were triumphs and there were troughs of tears. We saw more of each other’s hurts, coping mechanisms and walled off areas. We helped each other open vent holes in areas of the bodymind that hadn’t breathed in a really long time. Confidence in the presence of the the sacredness of all and cushions of gratitude made it possible to sit through some chilling, tough stuff, and to reclaim some energy knotted up in experiences or worries of the past. In writing class, our hearts and writing hands were connected, were holding on to each other, so we might have individual transformative moments.

Photo of quilt for Loving Hands of Sisterly Support
Loving Hands of Sisterly Support by Eileen Melia, Affirmation Quilt Ministry.

Outside writing class, the group plotted to surprise Jewels with our individual hands of support on a quilt by Eileen. Though Eileen obviously knew her quilts came with writings, the rest of us didn’t really get how big a part that was until later. Eileen sent for outlines of our hands, from classmates, the teacher, and from my immediate female family members. She overlapped them under a big heart. The Loving Hands of Sisterly Support quilt and its written meditation were born in 2008. The quilt was bordered with bright butterflies symbolizing the soaring and tremendous transformation that may comes after wrapping up in cocoon for a time. Eileen wrote, “Like the butterfly, life offers one a multitude of stages. Taking risks while spreading wings involves both trust and fortitude.”

A single one of a kind butterfly was sewn into the back for the one of a kind recipient with the meditation pointing out “the little girl is still within and will never leave” and to “keep those feelers out and live in the wonder of childlike joy!”

Photo of a one of a kind appliquéd butterfly in Loving Hands of Sisterly Support quilt
Unique butterfly for the recipient of the quilt of Loving Hands of Sisterly Support from Her Affirmations Quilt Ministry.

This Loving Hands of Sisterly Support affirmation quilt, based on the Loving Hands of Healing Energy quilt, lent inspiration to the 2010 quilt featured in Affirmation Quilt Ministry – Blessed Offerings. The quilts have similarities – many of the same fabrics including butterflies, a heart of marbled pink at the center, hands – and they have differences. There are outlines of different people’s hands holding the hearts, there are light blue blocks in the corners on one, the other has the chalice and the cross atop the heart. Each has a unique meditation and was sent into the world on a unique mission of comfort and celebration. Each is quilted with threads connecting and appreciating us all.

Crafters create some interesting intersections of life with how their supplies end up part in this project and part in that project, with how one project is the springboard for another. Eileen and I have another thing in common. We don’t often make the exact thing twice, always tweaking a design, adapting it a little here and there for the uniqueness of the moment. Many interesting things life of a crafter and her projects often go unseen except by and sometimes not even by the crafter herself. I love asking about the stories about the inklings to buy this or that fabric, for example, for a person or a project where there are plot twists and mysterious things that happen to change who got what. I love listening for the synchronistical vibes and the aha moments in those intricacies. They make it possible to let go even more the idea that things only happen logically or under certain conditions.

Becoming Unconditional

Themes I have seen in all the affirmation quilts are celebration, appreciation, and something I call becoming unconditional. Childlike joy might come in part from how unconditional children are. We have all heard of, some have even experienced, the extraordinary uplift of being unconditionally loved, unconditionally accepted, unconditionally appreciated. Recovering from being conditionally loved, from being conditioned to believe things are only a certain way, and from conditional acceptance recovers more energy, spirit, aliveness.

I am witness to the hard and holy work Eileen is doing to ease up the conditions she puts on herself. I am witness to her helping others do the same. The Meditations for her Affirmation Quilts are full of wonder and celebration of all aspects life and they do help others experience the freeing feeling of unconditionality. The unique and universal blessings of healing via each act, each breath of becoming unconditional surprise, delight, and uplift.

Her Affirmation Quilts are not being made at the speed they once were. God and the grandchildren have other plans. The body of work already out there and the spiritual messages to still be taken in through the material and the meditations are enough to keep Her Ministry ministering.

©Elly Brosius, 2016. All rights reserved. Excerpting is allowed with credit and direction to original content. For full reprint permission, contact@intersectingstories.com. Photos supplied by Eileen Melia.

Affirmation Quilt Ministry – Blessed Offerings

Affirmation Quilts Ministry was founded in the mid-1990’s by Eileen Melia. She tells the story in a note to Pope Francis. She came across the material of a world map and it occurred to her to use her gift of sewing to make sewn prayer for peace activists.

Photo of the front of Peace Quilt
World Map Peace Quilt, Affirmation Quilt Ministry
“Making this world peace map quilt has given me great joy! It is a small way to acknowledge my admiration for the courage and faithful witness that you, Pope Francis, display by standing-up and quietly attesting to God’s truth in such a humble manner. … Whether you use it as a blanket, a banner, a wall hanging, a prayer shawl, a prayer mat, an altar cloth, or gift it to another, my prayer is that it will honor your commitment of being a peacemaker. … may it serve as a visible prayer for world peace.”

World Map Peace Quilting

Eileen has probably kept the maker of that world map fabric in business with the number of peace quilts pieced together. I love that she puts the word peace on the back giving the world some inner peace. Without inner peace, there seems little chance peace at all.

Photo of back of a Peace Quilt from Her Affirmation Quilt Ministry
Peace Quilt (back), Affirmation Quilt Ministry
In the cover letter for the papal peace quilt Eileen wrote in 2014, “You, Pope Francis, have not disappointed! This quilt is my personal way of affirming all you are doing on a daily basis to affirm the goodness of all the children of our beloved Creator.”

She tells him her faith journey has been enriched and blessed by her nursing profession, theological studies, advocating for the downtrodden, assisting, participating in the education process, companioning those on their final journey home, with, perhaps, the greatest gift being her health challenges.

Health problems are generally disorderly and disturbing of one’s peace. Peace quilting was steadying. Her seeing the holy opportunities in health problems led to more appreciation of and service with house-bound talents, baking for the homeless and causes, quilting for peace with pre-printed fabrics, and actively writing the ways of holy seeing.

Ethereal Material

Eileen writes a version of this quote from mine for each quilt: “As you know, quilting is for me a form of contemplation. The material speaks to me of the wonders of our awesome God. When I share my meditation, it is with the hope that it might provide others with an opportunity to see the holy in the mundane. Each moment lived in the present is a gift.”

“The material speaks to me of the wonders of our awesome God.”

Usually it is I who plays with double meanings of words. I just did a double take on that last quote. Wow, Eileen! The material, the fabric, and the material – the earthly plane, speaks to her of the wonders of God, of the spiritual world, and she seeks to help others see the ethereal in the material. Love that word play. Love that world play.

The main reason we found and friended each other is our similar disabling symptoms. Medically unexplained syndromes connected us immediately. We needed to share no nonsense information about how to live less desperately and painfully; how to stop provoking energy crashes; how to find doctor and treatment recommendations; where to buy high quality affordable supplements, supplies and so on. We traded hard won answers and new questions about the practical stuff. And, we also felt the yearning for a deeper understanding, for more than surface level fixes or symptom management. We needed to heal stuff in us that cannot be reached by medications or meditating alone. We longed for more revelation and resolution to dysfunctions that were draining our energies.

Blessed Offerings Into the Unknown

Photo of Blessed Offerings Quilt
Blessed Offerings
Even if a quilt is going to go into the unknown, for instance, if it is going to be auctioned off in a fundraiser, spirit moves through Eileen Melia to craft words so they end up being personal and treasured by its ultimate owner. In 2010, a woman at a Women’s Ordination Conference bid on a quilt called Blessed Offerings. Pax Christi Metro DC-Baltimore has photos of the quilt and the text of its meditation on its website page Blessed Offerings: A Quilt for Catholic Women. In 2014, Eileen received a beautiful letter from the quilt owner with the moving story of her using Blessed Offerings in her profession as a back drop during speaking engagements. Rev. Barbara Zeman was ordained in 2008 through the Roman Catholic Womenpriest movement which began when seven women were ordained as priests by bishops in full apostolic succession. Eileen was asked permission for the image of Blessed Offerings to be used for a new inclusive community group forming. She answered yes!

Blessed offerings into the unknown, more leadership with the feminine, continuing attitudes of inclusiveness and gratitude turned into keys for unlocking more doors into healing and recovery of energy for us and others. More map quilts sent to peace activists around the globe navigated Eileen to more inner world peace and intuitive inklings for the creation of many pieced quilts to comfort those with health challenges. The gifts of her Affirmation Quilt Ministry travel infinitely around blessing receivers, the Maker, and their witnesses.

©Elly Brosius, 2016. All rights reserved. Excerpting is allowed with credit and direction to original content. For full reprint permission, contact@intersectingstories.com. Photos supplied by Eileen Melia.

Affirmation Quilt Ministry – Empowering Hearts

by Elly Brosius, M.S.

Life has interlaced ribbons of my journey with ribbons of Eileen Melia’s. She made me, prayed me, a quilt with a theme of spiraling ribbons a few years ago. Now the ribbons of my spiraling DNA are winding me up to share about this gift and the gifts of the giver. I’m in a twisted ribbon story, needing to shout about it so more might learn of this wonderful woman, how she answers the call to service by being a unique quilter piecing together meanings, meditations, and motherly outreach.

Eileen is a lively storyteller, full of spirit, punctuating with insight and exclamation. She makes me laugh in crying situations, she motivates many into hard and helpful changes, and she makes masterpieces she describes as sewn prayer to affirm the lives and works of social justice champions, educators, people with special health challenges, people helping people, and peace activists.

The distinguished list of her affirmation quilt recipients include individuals assisting in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, tragedy; Nobel Peace Prize Laureates and national “Teacher of the Year” recipients; authors, religious leaders, and national and international organizations; mothers and youth leaders; Pope Francis, Dr. Oz, and Mattie Stepanik; and two friends made via my CFS support and gratitude groups ministry and me.

In the next several blogs, I piece together photos and stories of some of Eileen’s affirmation quilts with some stories of how a few friends with similar syndromes were quilted into each other’s journey.

Capital Letters

It was awhile before I understood that Eileen was a quilter, yes, and a Quilter at some archetypal level that went beyond the material. Selecting fabric, cutting, piecing and the sewing are, of course, part of a quilter’s service. Typing up and sharing her deepest divine thoughts about the process, the finished product and about the symbolism of selections and the people involved, layers in conscious love and spiritual care. The warmth of the comforter, the quilt, is enhanced by the warmth of the words. The warmth of the comforter, Eileen, is felt via many threads.

Eileen came into my life as I was forming Elly’s Gratitude Group (EGG). She jumped in with both feet. We became close. We discovered similar ribbons of faithful service and for sharing appreciation through writing, for showing how to find the sacred in the ordinary stuff of life, for healing and empowering hearts.

Empowering Heart Rhythm Quilts

One of Eileen Melia’s Empowering Heart Rhythm quilts was given to a woman who was running a heart condition charity around the time Eileen and I met, about the time I was starting a group to help hearts. No accident there. I have since heard another one went to an opera singer.

The title inspires me in its entirety and parsed. An “empowering heart’s” rhythm sounds already strong and playing a song I want to dance to. Empowering a “heart rhythm” moves me to help someone who is not yet finding their own beat. When I contemplate the words empowering, heart, and rhythm, my poor circulation becomes richer and my postural tachycardia becomes less tacky. Titles add value; Eileen’s quilt titles for quilts for the ailing add healing value.

When I envision Eileen, a woman with hurts in her heart, crafting and gifting Empower Heart Rhythm to a woman with a heart condition who helps others with heart conditions, my anxious heart calms and cheers. The title is the beginning.

The Empowering Heart Rhythm quilt has vibrant red hearts appliquéd on white combined with black and white themed fabric with piano keys and clefs. Behold two photos of the quilt and two excerpts from the woven words Eileen included with it.

Photo of Interior of Empowered Hearts Quilt
Interior of an Empowering Heart Rhythm Quilt, Affirmation Quilt Ministry.
Quilt and photo by Eileen Melia.
Photo of Empowered Heart Rhythm Quilt
Full View of an Empowering Heart Rhythm Quilt, Affirmation Quilt Ministry.
Quilt and photo by Eileen Melia.

Note one:

“… the appliqué stitch reminds one of the piercings or challenges that sometimes may cause the heart to bleed, but in retrospect can be seen as graces that encourage wisdom, growth, and knowledge that leads to openness of the heart”

and note two:

“scales are so like the lessons in life – they must be practiced over and over until they become part of the fabric of one’s life.”

“The Meditation” is what Eileen calls the accompaniment to the quilt, that which describes how the quilt’s unique design relates to the individual or group receiving the quilt. The words balance the patterns. While the right brain is soaking in the color and the shapes and the symbolism, the very verbal left brain has something to love and be loved from. These written expressions expand the gift exponentially. They sometimes overwhelm, humble, blow away, and/or delight the recipient for years.

©Elly Brosius, 2016. All rights reserved. Excerpting is allowed with credit and direction to original content. For full reprint permission, contact@intersectingstories.com. Photos of Empowering Heart Quilt supplied by Eileen Melia. Photo of label saying “Made Especially for You by Eileen Melia” by Elly Brosius.

First Story – A Mother’s Obituary

My first story is about my mother. Many first stories, if we could know them, remember them, would have to be about our mothers. Mom probably has the first and most often heard voice one hears from the womb. She likely has the voice many still hear in their heads long after they’ve moved out of her nest.

I wrote this story months ago. It’s Mom’s obituary. I couldn’t get the writing done (or started) as fast as the funeral home and the official newspaper obit departments wanted, so those obits turned out to be about 3 sentences short and there were name spelling errors – an unfitting tribute for a remarkable woman who so many have amazing stories about. I collected some stories, dug deep, and when I could handle it – you know, while still handling so much else that also had to be handled – I wrote something I thought she’d like and be pleased about. It was, after all, a gift to her and for those who love her.

The tears through the typing and all that that goes with writing were a gift to me. Nothing reveals more about the state of things than figuring out what to say, how to summarize in writing what is known and felt. Nothing reveals how stuck one might be more than trying to write, and almost nothing in my experience tends to change things more than becoming the intense observer writing demands.

I took out an ad in the county paper Mom liked. She had introduced me to its upbeat editor a couple years ago. From what I sent, he suggested a full page piece inside with two b/w photos, a color photo and caption on the front page. In the interesting and intersecting ways that things occur, the large front page headline left of her inset said “Live Nativity lacks Wise Man, ‘God will provide’ organizers say.”  “Tribute to Joan Blair” follows right with her sparkly, smiling picture from Celebrity’s cruise ship, Infinity.

As an ad, the obituary doesn’t appear on the paper’s website. And while many locals where Mom and Dad retired to in Pamlico County, North Carolina, saw it and found it helpful to process their grief and shock, it didn’t have a befitting reach to their many friends and family flung far and wide. Obituary image for Joan W. Blair 1930-2014There needed to be something to find on Google or Facebook or something to click through to as she would have done on her iPad if someone sent a link. IntersectingStories.com was created, firstly, to get her story a place to live online. Her life touched many lives in grand and encouraging ways.  It will continue to do so, and help folks hold on and let go simultaneously.

Writing and sharing her story helps me keep finding my story. No matter what the mother story, it pushes the child along in the world somehow.

My impeding birthday is giving me some kind of sacred shove to get this story out, now. I have had the technology to do so before, not the wherewithal. This will be the first birthday without my mom’s voice on the phone or in the flesh.

Birthday celebrations and birth date anniversaries have their way of nudging us, inviting us, sometimes forcing us, to notice new things about our intersections with other people’s stories, other people’s lives. Maybe we shall read more first stories here inspired by mothers, birthdays, birth dates, and birthday gifts given and received. Maybe we shall read more stories of tributes that become possible after a death.

The rose photo anchoring this site at its birth is from Mom’s rose bush in 2015. She didn’t live to see it flower this year, but there will be blooms from things she planted for years to come.

Civic-minded, Adventurous, Compassionate
A Tribute to Joan Worzel Blair
A Remembrance by Elly Brosius, Friends and Family
, an
obituary in PDF for Joan W. Blair, 1930-2014 (2.3 MB), or an
obituary in HTML for Joan W. Blair, 1930-2014, which loads faster and adapts to your screen size.

©Elly Brosius, 2015. All rights reserved. Excerpting is allowed with credit and direction to original content. For full reprint permission, contact@intersectingstories.com. Photos by Elly Brosius.