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 – 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, Photos by Elly Brosius and Toni Marshall.