We’re more than halfway through July. I can’t actually believe it. I will admit that it’s one of the strangest Julys I’ve ever experienced. It’s not just because of the unusual state of the world, but also because I’m spending it in Malawi, which is currently experiencing it’s “winter.”
For my entire life, July has meant long days, shorts and tank tops, and popsicles. Familiar scenes all set to the soundtrack of lawnmowers, children’s squeals of laughter, and, in Maryland, at least, the buzz of cicadas in the trees. But this year, I’m bundled up in sweatpants and a sweatshirt, a scarf, and fuzzy slippers tucked under a quilt. A Christmas quilt, no less.
Christmas in July
While I’ve always chuckled at the idea of “Christmas in July,” it feels like a strange mash up from where I sit. I’m enjoying all the cozy “hygge” things like hot tea and sweater weather, but at the wrong time of year, at least in my experience. (Sorry to all my fellow southern hemisphere folks! It’s all quite new to me!)
But, by contrast, it makes it the perfect time to share the aforementioned Christmas quilt. This quilt was my second foray into bulk basting, and the top took about a month and a half to piece. Weirdly enough, the whole quilt was finished by Valentine’s day, but it felt all sorts of upside down to post about a Christmas quilt amidst all of the hearts and flowers.
Still, I wrote about it because it taught me something. I just needed to get the words out. Recently, I reread them, and they were even more poignant than when I wrote them. I wrote them before Coronavirus took over the world, riots raged on the streets, and our airplane tickets became vouchers. Yet, in a way, these words still feel like the only way forward from here.
So, if you’re willing, even though it’s a bit unconventional, rewind a little bit with me to February of this year. Then, finish it out with a little bit of reflection on today. I hope it meets you in some way, wherever you are today.
Posts like these are typically preempted by a witty remark like “look how early I am with my Christmas sewing for this year!” Or, a shame faced explanation like “yes, I know Valentine’s Day is past, and Easter is on the horizon, and I just finished my Christmas quilt.”
But, today I’m here with neither. Today, I present my most recently finished quilt, lovingly stitched over rainy afternoons while Christmas lights twinkled and Christmas music swirled its enchanting notes through the air.
The stitches remained just as well loved as the Christmas music gradually faded away, and its festive color palette slowly began to clash with the rest of the decor. Its progress slowed, but it steadily grew as New Years fizzled into the Monday morning that is January, on into the Tuesday afternoon of February.
The "Should" Dilemma
Throughout this whole process I asked myself if I shouldn’t just set it aside until next Christmas. Wouldn’t that be what I “should” do? And there it was, that heartless, cold, unrelenting word. Should.
A great deal of my life has been lived according to what I “should” do. Granted, there will always be good and right things that should, and must, be done. But, I’m talking about when “should” shifts from being a helpful guide to a tyrannical judge. When every decision wears the weight of what “should” be done to please people or to cultivate the largest following or to create a persona that appears lovable and good.
It’s quite interesting how infectious this little word is. Once I identified its presence, I started to recognize it popping up in a multitude of varied costumes masquerading as the picture of innocence to hide the almighty judge of my every thought and action underneath.
As this realization dawned upon me, the thought came home to me that I had allowed this well intentioned guide to become a dictator, blackmailing me with failure and urging me on with fear. I discovered that a great many personal disappointments with myself found their origin within the edict of this tiny word, “should.”
Once I saw all of this in the light, I felt a great sense of relief. I felt relief because I know Whom I have chosen as the ultimate Guide over my life. His ways never use fear as a tactic for motivation or blackmail as a means of punishment. He loved me enough to die for my acquittal from all of my failed “shoulds.” So, how could He turn around and look on me with disapproval? I know deep down He can’t. Moreover, He won’t.
A Kind Reminder
So what does this have to do with a Christmas quilt? Honestly, it might make absolutely no sense to anyone but me. But finishing this quilt in spite of the season and all of its expectations of what I “should” be doing, brought with it a kind reminder.
I need not give space to the dictates of “should.” This quilt has brought joy and a sense of accomplishment with it that I am choosing to appreciate. I refuse to bow under some seasonal shame simply because the calendar tells me I’m too late for it to count.
The funny thing? This lesson holds true for every season and every circumstance that has us running to keep up with it. At the end of the day, whose judgment gets the final say? I’m siding with Jesus. He knows every one of my failed “shoulds.” Yet, miraculously, He tells me I’m still valuable; still lovable. In fact, He says He wouldn’t want me any other way.
Have you battled the “should” monster? In what ways have you learned to silence it? I’d love to hear in the comments.