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.