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, Photos supplied by Eileen Melia 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, Photos supplied by Eileen Melia.