Wisdom at the Water’s Edge

Sometimes you have to let go to see if there was anything worth holding on to.
~Author Unknown

The summer I turned twelve had every indication of becoming the lowest point in my young life. However, thanks to the wisdom of a dear aunt, and the beauty of a natural wonder, that particular summer provided me with a deep strength that I have drawn upon throughout my life.
Earlier that year, my parents had decided to end their fifteen-year marriage. The only home I had ever known would be sold, life with my father would be reduced to a weekend experience, and I would begin seventh grade in a new school. While all of these changes were terrifying to me, somehow that June, they didn’t seem to matter that much. What had disturbed me the most was foregoing our annual vacation to the mountains. Instead of spending the summer tucked away in the cool, verdant forest, I was going to spend the next ten weeks with my elderly aunt, who lived in a quiet seashore community. From what little I knew, the only friends I could expect to make were seagulls.
Needless to say, I did not want to go. I had never been a fan of gritty sand and salty surf, and though I did love my aunt, I hadn’t seen her in nine years. I barely remembered her, and I sincerely doubted she would be much of a companion to me. But I had no choice in the matter. My parents were breaking up, not only with each other, but also our home. The only thing they agreed upon that summer was removing me from the battlefield.
So despite my misgivings and protests, the very day school closed I found myself on a train heading south. Beside me were two canvas bags that held my summer clothes, my books and a daily journal I had been keeping since learning of my parents’ impending divorce. Traveling with me, too, was a heart so heavy with resentment, bitterness and loss I found it difficult to breathe.
When the train pulled into the station, I was the last passenger to leave my seat. The conductor must have sensed how desperate I was, because he patted my shoulder as if to offer assurances that things would somehow sort themselves out. But I knew better, for my life would never be the same.
Waiting for me on the platform was Aunt Olivia, who was actually my grandmother’s eldest sister. Demure, slender, and almost shy, she smiled at me and then hesitantly patted my shoulder in much the same manner as the conductor. I supposed I must have looked as forlorn to her as I had to him.
Listen to the Chicken Soup for the Soul Podcast Poor Olivia, I thought. She was as much a victim in this desperate situation. Her summer plans had not included a ten-week visit from a grandniece. I tried to force a smile for her, and I remember thinking how out of place she seemed at the station, almost like a young girl dressed up in her mother’s clothes. I was suddenly reminded of an old Highlights magazine from my childhood. Its theme was “what doesn’t belong,” and even to the most casual observer, Aunt Olivia seemed almost foreign standing in that station.
Hauling my canvas bags in the direction of the taxi stand, I trudged after Aunt Olivia, who moved with surprising grace and speed for an older woman. Fortunately, the line was a short one, and Aunt Olivia and I were soon seated in an old-fashioned checkered cab heading east toward the shoreline. In no time at all, the landscape started to change. With my face pressed against the window, I noticed the city’s tall buildings, traffic and people soon receded. Within a half hour, I sensed a hint of salty air, and viewed a series of ramshackle bungalows bearing signs like “Bait and Tackle,” “The Chowder Shack,” and “Boating Supplies.”
Three blocks from the ocean, Aunt Olivia directed the driver to stop in front of a small, pink cottage. As I dragged my bags up the seashell path to the front door, I remember thinking that the house looked like Cinderella’s coach, a transformed pumpkin. I tried to swallow the lump that was forming in my throat as I thought “this will be my home for the next ten weeks.”
Settling in with Aunt Olivia was much easier than I had anticipated. To her credit, she respected my privacy and sensed my need to be left alone. She didn’t try to distract me with useless activity or engage me in meaningless chatter. Because the cottage was so tiny, my aunt had adopted a very simple lifestyle, which was precisely what I had needed at the time. Since the dwelling was so small, I slept in an open loft, tucked in the eaves. Every night, as I climbed the ladder to my bedroom in the stars, I felt like Heidi. But unlike my storybook heroine, I had a view of the ocean, not the mountains which were familiar to me.
During the day, I used a rusty bicycle that had once belonged to my mother to get around. For the first few days, I purposely avoided the ocean and beach, preferring to exhaust myself pedaling alone into the town. At the time, I didn’t think that much about it, but in retrospect, I think there was so much anger in me, I was unable to even see, much less appreciate, the beauty of the shoreline.
By the fourth morning, I somehow found myself pedaling to the beach. It was a beautiful clear sunrise, and while I had always been partial to the mountains, the seascape before me held a unique beauty. When I arrived at the beach, it was virtually empty but for two lone silhouettes — one feeding the seagulls, the other fortifying a sand castle against the approaching tide.
Leaving my bike on the boardwalk, I ventured toward the sea. As I walked, I studied the figure feeding the gulls. There was something vaguely familiar about the stance. A natural grace, the fluid movements, almost an affinity with the sea. Then it hit me — it was Aunt Olivia. Dressed in worn jeans, a faded T-shirt, and a baseball cap, she resembled a young teenager from a distance. I recalled the dichotomy of seeing her in the train station, stressed, strained and out of place. Here, against the backdrop of the sea, pounding surf and beach, she looked at home.
Though she did not turn toward me, she sensed my presence. “Have some bread,” she said softly, handing me some crusts without taking her eyes off the pair of gulls she was feeding. As I crumbled the crusts, the sound of the gulls overhead, the scent of the salty air, and the sight of the young boy defending his sand castle effected a calmness within me. I had not felt such peace since learning of my parents’ impending divorce.
Long after the last of the bread was gone, Aunt Olivia and I continued to watch the boy. Finally, she spoke. “You have to admire the persistence in that boy,” she said softly. “He’s trying so hard to defend that castle. He’s decorated it with beautiful shells; he’s put his heart and soul into that project. But no matter how high the walls or how deep the moat he builds, the ocean is stronger and more powerful.”
As she spoke, I watched the boy. The closer the waves came, the more frenzied he became. His digging became manic; his face was marked with apprehension at each wave. Finally, Aunt Olivia extended her hand to me, and together we walked down to the water’s edge.
The boy looked up at us. At first, he seemed confused, but then I saw him smile. Aunt Olivia must have extended her other hand because the boy left his sand castle, stood up, and took her hand. As the three of us watched, a final wave crashed upon the castle, leveling it, destroying the walls, and flooding the moat.
As the seashells that had decorated the castle scattered, Aunt Olivia released our hands. “Let’s collect as many of these beautiful shells as we can,” she said. “These shells were actually the best part of that castle. Let’s gather them together. We’ll use them to build a new castle in a more protected area.” And that’s just what we did.
Throughout my life, Aunt Olivia’s words would guide me on more occasions than I cared to remember. That day on the beach would help me countless times as I fought to rebuild my life after forces beyond my control sent me into a tailspin. Years later, as I struggled to survive my own divorce, a corporate downsizing, and the death of a best friend, Aunt Olivia’s soft words would quiet my heart. And while attempting to rebuild my life, I tried to follow Aunt Olivia’s example by taking the best of my previous existence with me, to ensure that each new castle I erected was a little bit better, a little bit richer, and a little bit stronger than the one before.
~Barbara A. Davey

The Insignificant Prayer

Proof God knows our hearts and cares deeply about what matters to us.

By Susan Farr-Fahncke

I awoke at 2:00 a.m. To find my eight-year-old Noah in tears at my bedside. “I miss B.B.” He signed to me. Noah is deaf, and B.B. Is his best friend and his cat. She has slept snuggled up to him for the past four years, and only a few days after we moved to our new home in Kansas, B.B. Disappeared.

My heart ached for Noah, as only a mother’s can when she knows her child is hurting. The day we realized B.B. Had somehow gotten out of the house, we began right away to search for her. We searched the neighborhood over and over. We hung up signs and offered a reward and placed an ad in our city paper. We drove around our town and the kids rode bikes in search of her. And we prayed. Still no B.B. She had just vanished.

I felt in my heart that we would never see her again. In all the years we had had her, she had never, ever missed a single night of sleeping next to Noah. Noah seemed so lost and lonely without his faithful friend by his side. As the days wore on, it became evident that B.B. Was not coming home. A few phone calls in response to our ad brought only disappointment. Noah’s sweet companion was just gone.

With tears in my eyes, I gathered Noah into my arms and prayed with him yet again for the Lord to send B.B. Back to us. After tucking Noah back in bed, I felt restless and unable to sleep. I don’t think I can adequately explain how heart-wrenching it was to see my little blue-eyed boy so empty at the sudden loss of his dearest friend.

Noah is sometimes lonely because of his deafness, and his suffering physically hurt my heart. In his silent world, the softness, the gentle spirit, and constant company of B.B. Had always been a comfort to Noah. I have spent many nights in our new home watching out the window, repeatedly calling her name and hoping that she might somehow hear me and return to us. I knelt down again and begged the Lord to send this much-needed friend home.

I pleaded with the Lord, telling Him Noah had already experienced great loss in his life and he didn’t deserve this heartbreak.

His first cat passed away when Noah was tiny, but he still remembers burying her. Noah has also lost close family members, and gone through more sadness than any little boy should. I didn’t feel he needed any more “life lessons” right now. I begged and begged and prayed and prayed for B.B.’s return. I knew she was “just a cat” but the comfort and friendship she brought my sweet son were irreplaceable, and I desperately wanted this prayer answered. Time went by and still no B.B. Wherever we went, my eyes constantly scanned the countryside and neighborhoods for any sign of B.B.

I knew chances of her coming home were almost nonexistent, but I also knew that God could work any miracle, even one seemingly so insignificant.

I prayed and prayed some more. I watched Noah gradually accept B.B’s loss, but his heartache did not lessen. Noah still missed B.B., especially late at night when she should be cuddled up next to him, asleep on his back or next to him on the pillow. I prayed harder and more than I ever had in my life. For some reason, I just felt that I could pray her back. And every now and then, in the middle of the night, I would go to the porch and call to B.B., still holding a tiny spark of hope inside my heart that she would come running across the lawn and back to our home.

Whenever we passed the “lost cat” poster for B.B. On our corner, I saw Noah’s face cloud as he was reminded of this loss in his life. His loneliness for his little friend was almost too much for me to bear. It has now been two months. Two months is impossibly long when an animal is missing. Last week I learned that coyotes live in the woods only two blocks behind our house. With a sick feeling, I realized that this had probably been what had become of our sweet little gray cat. I knew if she could, she would come back to Noah. She adored him and I finally admitted to myself that she must be dead.

Tears of sadness filled my eyes at the horror of what might have happened to her. Still I prayed. I often thought of the scripture to “pray without ceasing” and even after two months, I continued my vigil of prayer. My heart still yearned to be able to bring B.B. home. And then the most unexpected miracle happened. Yesterday my daughter, Maya, appeared in the doorway where I was working and she could barely get the words out. “You need to take me to my friend’s house! I think she found B.B!”

I could see that she was almost in tears, she was so excited. My heart fell. I didn’t want any more disappointment, for either of us. “Oh honey, it would be an absolute miracle if B.B. was still around.” I said. “But I’ll take you there. Don’t say anything to Noah.”

Leaving the boys with their dad, the girls and I headed off to her friend’s house. As we drove across the highway, I knew there was no way B.B. could have gotten this far. It would have been too much of a miracle. After all, it had been two months! Maya told me how in school she overheard her friend telling some other kids that a gray cat had suddenly shown up in her yard and she fed her, so now she was hanging around her house. We pulled into the driveway and I tried to brace Maya for disappointment.

This had happened a couple of times before and it was never B.B., so it just couldn’t be now, especially after so long. Maya’s friend held up a pet carrier and we opened it up. A soft bundle of gray fur and green eyes tumbled into my arms. I held her up and immediately felt a jolt of sadness. She did look like B.B., but she didn’t have the white “bikini top” spots that B.B. had on her chest. But boy, she looked like B.B.—right down to those green eyes!

Then the funniest thing happened. I moved my thumbs to pet her face and suddenly I saw the “bikini top” appear where my thumbs had been! B.B. meowed her unique, very loud “Rowrrr” at me and the tears just fell as I held our beloved miracle kitty close. “Oh, it’s really you! B.B.! It’s you, it’s you, it’s you!” “It’s B.B.!” I told the girls. Maya giggled and said, “Yeah, we got that.” With shaking hands, I loaded B.B. into the car. “It’s just a miracle, an absolute miracle!” I told the girls.

Minutes later we pulled into the driveway and practically floated in the front door with our little gray miracle in my arms. The look on Noah’s face was the most sweet, joyful expression I have ever seen. He blinked back tears and signed, “Oh, B.B.!” and gathered her into his arms and just beamed. “Whew!” he signed. I knew just how he felt.

That night we had some serious “thank You” prayers, rejoicing that not only had God brought this little miracle back to us, but He had completely protected her for two months. She was soft, healthy, and exactly the way she was the day she left.

I looked at her, curled up next to Noah, and I wonder where she had been, what had happened, but I know that she was in God’s arms, and He heard and answered a mother’s prayers. A gentle reminder that He hears all of our prayers, even the ones we might fear are too insignificant for Him. He knows our hearts and cares deeply about what matters to us. No prayer is ever insignificant and no miracle too small for Him.

The Mysterious Old Woman

A strange, elderly lady repeatedly appears to a young woman with life predictions, advice, and even warnings
WHO IS THE strange old woman who keeps appearing to Raven H., both in her dreams and in her waking life? Raven doesn’t know her, doesn’t know her name or where she’s from, has never really met her in any personal way. Yet this woman seems to know Raven intimately, giving her messages and warnings about future events.
Who is this mysterious woman and how is any of it possible?
The encounters began in 1989 when Raven was 15 years old. She was eating a meal at a local fast food restaurant with her older sister, who was about seven months pregnant. They chatted about this and that, sometimes speculating on whether the baby would be a boy or a girl. Raven’s sister could have found out from her doctor, but she wanted it to be a surprise.
The sisters finished their lunch, cleared their table, and headed out the door. Just outside, an elderly woman was walking past – just another stranger whom neither of the girls knew. Raven happened to make eye contact with her when the woman glanced down and noticed the swollen abdomen of Raven’s sister. Her eyes lit up.
“Oh, look at that!” the woman exclaimed. “You’re having a little boy!” She touched Raven’s arm and said, “You’re going to have a beautiful nephew, young lady!”
Raven and her sister just smiled and nodded to the nice old woman and continued on their way down the street. Just a few steps away, Raven glanced back over her shoulder and the woman was nowhere to be seen. “Wow… Creepy, huh?” her sister said.
It was a harmless little encounter, but the sisters were both startled by the woman’s assumptions. First, how did she know they were sisters? Okay, she might have noticed a family resemblance in this brief encounter; perhaps she was just very observant. But why would she assume that the baby would be a boy? Perhaps that was just a lucky guess; after all, she had a fifty-fifty chance of being right. Most people probably would have asked if it was going to be a boy or a girl, but this woman seemed to know. It turned out she was right. Two months later, Raven’s sister gave birth to a boy – a “beautiful nephew” for Raven.
The incident was tucked away in Raven’s mind as just one of those odd things that happen. Then, about five years later, Raven was surprised by another “chance” meeting with the woman.
Raven was attending a beauty school on the other side of town. “It was my first week on the floor,” Raven says. “When you start beauty school, you spend months in the classroom learning, and then they put you out in the salon where you work on actual customers and where you are monitored by an instructor.”
On this particular day, Raven was called to the front desk by the salon’s receptionist. “You have a request,” the receptionist said.
“Who could be asking for me?” Raven asked, puzzled. “I just started working out here.”
The receptionist gestured toward the customer waiting area. “She’s over there and she asked for you by name.”
Raven turned and looked. Her jaw dropped when she saw it was the same elderly woman from years back who predicted the outcome of her sister’s pregnancy. Raven escorted the lady back to her station and sat her in the chair. At this point, because the woman asked for her by name, Raven began to wonder if maybe she should know who this woman was. Perhaps she was a friend of her mother’s that she had met long ago and had forgotten. “I felt awkward,” Raven says, “like I should know who she is. I waited and waited for her to clue me in, but she didn’t.”
As Raven was working on the woman’s hair, the woman finally spoke up, blurting out a strange non-sequitur: “You need to use lard.”
Raven stopped and looked at the woman in the mirror, confused.
“You know,” the woman continued, “my late husband and I owned a bakery when we were young in Austria. When you make a pie crust, never use butter, use lard.”
It was a strange thing to say, but it actually carried some meaning for Raven, and it made her nervous. “Over that past weekend,” she says, “I had attempted to make my first pie, and it was a disaster. The crust -made with butter – kept falling apart and the pie tasted horrible.”
As Raven finished the woman’s hair, there wasn’t much more conversation. But when Raven took off the protective haircutter’s cape, the woman leaned forward and said in a low voice, “Never pick at that blemish. It’s going to leave a scar on your pretty face, young lady.”
Raven was again taken aback. She had a tiny pimple under her lower lip, and she was amazed that the woman could even see it. “And yes, I picked at it and have had a scar for the past 20 years,” Raven admits.
The old woman walked out of the salon, leaving Raven completely bewildered.
Moving ahead another five years, Raven was now married and seven months pregnant with her own baby. As many pregnant women experience, Raven was having a good deal of back pain. She had complained about it to her doctor, but he told her that it was just the weight of the baby and nothing to worry about.
Raven wasn’t so sure. “The pain became unbearable over the following days,” she says. “I didn’t know what to do. My doctor seemed annoyed, like I was being a whining pregnant woman. I didn’t want to go back again.”
One afternoon, Raven fell asleep on her couch and began to dream, and in that dream the elderly woman appeared. She looked at Raven and said, “You need help now! Go to the hospital!”
Raven bolted awake and called her husband, who took her to the emergency room. An examination revealed that Raven required immediate surgery. After the operation the next day, her surgeon told Raven that if she had waited much longer that she likely would have had permanent nerve damage and a leg brace for life.
Somehow, even in Raven’s dreams now, the mysterious old woman knew.
Raven’s most recent encounter was at Easter time, 2012. Again, Raven had closed her eyes for a quick nap when the elderly lady once more appeared. “The girl is going to ruin it for herself after she hurts you,” the woman said enigmatically.
Raven had no idea what the message could mean, but kept it in mind.
Raven was now working at a facility for junior offenses. While at work the next day, a young teen threw an object at Raven, resulting in a minor injury. The owners of the facility, however, transferred the girl to a very strict, no fun, juvenile detention facility. The girl would have had all the opportunities in the world had she just followed the rules.
Once again, the elderly woman’s predictive warning came true.
Who is this mysterious woman and how and why does she seem committed to watching, advising, and even protecting Raven? “I am not sure if this elderly woman is some type of spirit guide,” she says, “or just a lady’s image that I keep stored in my mind, who comes in my dreams during difficult times throughout my life.”
Why did the woman stop appearing in person but continue to advise Raven in her dreams? Did the old woman die, and Raven’s dreams were the only way she could still make contact?
Could Raven’s experiences merely be chalked up to coincidence? Or could the woman really be Raven’s spirit guide? The ghost of some watchful ancestor, A psychic, A witch? Or could she even be Raven’s future self, traveling back through time and space to help herself in time of need? It will be interesting to know if she continues to appear to Raven.

Never Miss a Sunset By Nancy Loucks-McSloy

The moment one gives close attention to any thing, even a blade of grass it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.~Henry Miller

Growing up with the golden sands of Sauble Beach at my doorstep, I realize now how rich we really were. Fondly referred to as the “Daytona of Canada,” Sauble Beach, Ontario is famous for its eleven kilometres of pure, golden, sugary sand, embracing the warm, clean waters of Lake Huron. When I visited my relatives in the “city,” I envied their beautiful houses, their stylish clothes and even the cookies that came out of a bag instead of the oven! As I take a nostalgic look at the past I now know that what we had money could not buy.We lived on a modest farm on Silver Lake Road, just a mile or so from “the beach.” My parents had grown up during the Depression, so frugality was a way of life. On the other hand they were so generous and giving. My dad would grow a huge garden to feed us throughout the winter and there was always enough for the “city” relatives to come and visit and take fresh vegetables home.We seldom went out for a fancy dinner or to a movie, but one thing that we did from the time the weather turned nice in the spring until the snow came and the lake froze over was to go to the beach. My father always said, “Never miss a sunset.” In the early spring we would sit at the beach, watching the icebergs as they moved in and out, and of course watching for that beautiful sunset. As spring turned into summer, we would go to the beach and swim until it was time to watch the sunset. Summer would turn to autumn, when the evenings were chilly and the water would begin to get rough. As we watched the waves, listening to them hit the shore, we would wait for those last sunsets of the season, knowing that soon it would be winter and we would be waiting for spring to once again watch the sunset over the lake.I grew up, married and moved away from the beauty of the lake and its breathtaking sunset. My parents retired and looked forward to summer when our children would spend summer holidays with them. Our children are now grown with children of their own, but they still talk about the days when Grandma and Grandpa would take them to the beach to swim and how Grandpa always said, “Never miss a sunset.”During his golden years, Dad would spend his time in the spring puttering around, making maple syrup and preparing to plant his garden. He would come back from the sugar bush in time for dinner and to take that short drive to watch the sunset. During the summer, he would work in his garden, or relax under the beautiful twin maple trees in the side yard. Evening would come and he would say to Mom, “We better go for an ice cream cone and eat it while we watch the sunset.” Autumn was no exception. He still took that short jaunt to the lake shore most evenings.Dad had lived there from birth; the only time he had been away from home was during World War II when he was in the army. He always said, “There is no place like home.”It was early spring. Dad called with some urgency in his voice, asking us to come and visit for the weekend. We went and helped him do a few things around the farm. When we finished our work he said, “We better go and watch the sunset.” That was the last sunset that I watched with my dad. A week later, we got the call. Just the night before, he and Mom went to the beach and watched their last sunset together. Suddenly he had been called to another home. The news was devastating and our next trip home was for his funeral. Spending the next several days at the farm, grieving and not knowing what to do with myself, I would wake up early, drive to the beach to watch and listen to the waves. I felt as if Dad were with me. Every evening, I would say to my family, “If Dad were here he would say never miss a sunset,” and off we would go to watch God’s artwork, reminiscing about a wonderful husband, father and grandpa.The memories of the sunsets of the Lake Huron shores have never left my heart. No matter what season I am travelling in the area, I feel an urge to be at the “beach” for the sunset. The spiritual healing that I have had just sitting on the beach, watching the sunset is more than money could ever buy! Living in our crazy “rat race” world I have learned to “take time to stop and smell the roses” and to “never miss a sunset.”

The Case of the Miraculous Flying Quiltby Daniel Kessefrom

The quilt on Lenice Hansen’s guest bed really brought the room together. Something about the cheerful floral pattern, the fine hand-sewn stitches, and that deep ruby-red border felt homey and welcoming. It invited you to curl up and get cozy with a book and a hot cup of tea or simply take a catnap.

But the quilt didn’t belong to Lenice. It had ended up at her home in the oddest way–it had flown there.

On February 5, 2008, an F4-category tornado cut a 122-mile-long swath of destruction from Atkins, Arkansas, to just past Highland, where Lenice lived. 

It was the longest-lasting tornado to ever touch down in Arkansas–and among the most devastating. The recovery would take years, both physically and emotionally.

The day after the twister hit, Lenice checked in with her sewing group at church. The tornado hadn’t touched her home–but not everyone was so lucky. The members of the group got together and talked about how entire neighborhoods were uprooted. 

Survivors stumbled out of storm shelters to find that their houses had been flipped upside down and shaken out.

Their most precious possession photo albums, baby books and cards and letters, priceless keepsakes–were destroyed or lost forever, scattered to the winds or buried beneath debris in other people’s yards. Was there some way the sewing group could help?

The women gathered around one item dropped off by another member of their church, Mark Hoosier, manager of the ALCO store in town. He’d gone to take a look at the debris that had settled on the store property. One thing caught his eye immediately. A quilt.

It was filthy from the storm, still damp, and a tree branch had torn a small hole in it–but Mark couldn’t throw it away. If someone restored it, the quilt could be quite beautiful. Perhaps the sewing group at his church could fix it up and send it overseas for its quilt-donation program.

Lenice had been making quilts all her life, a skill her grandmother had taught her. She knew a fine hand-sewn quilt when she saw one. “Someone loved this quilt,” Lenice said to the group. “We can’t send it overseas.”

Everyone agreed. Lenice offered to clean it up, mend its snags, patch the hole, and hold onto it until its rightful owner could be found.

“The flying homeless quilt”–that’s what the group called it in an ad they placed in the Villager Journal, a local newspaper with a circulation of 2,300:

“There’s no way to know how far this patchwork of fabric pieces traveled before landing in our small community. After surviving such a journey, it deserves to find its way back home.”

Lenice posted a photo of it–black-and-white, so she could test any caller claiming it was theirs; the true owner would know the quilt’s colors. But no one called. 

Lenice put the ad in the lost-and-found section of Country magazine, a publication with a much larger reach. Several people called, but none knew the right colors.

It seemed more and more unlikely that the sewing group would find the owner. They couldn’t afford to keep running ads. Lenice put the quilt on the guest bed, and there it remained. Someday, maybe someone would come for it.

Around the first anniversary of the tornado, Highland was hit hard by another storm–an ice storm. The quilt helped keep Lenice and her family warm all week as they were stuck indoors without power. 

The minute electricity was restored, the phone rang. “I believe you have my grandma’s quilt,” the female caller said. “I saw your ad.”

“What is the quilt like?” Lenice asked.

“Well, it’s made of floral squares, has a cream-colored backing, and it’s all hand-stitched,” she said. “Oh, and the border is ruby red.”

Lenice and her daughter spent the next day preparing for the owner’s arrival. They made sure the quilt was clean, and Lenice labored over a pot of chicken soup for lunch. 

One question nagged at her. How, after all this time, had the owner discovered that Lenice had the quilt? Her ad hadn’t run in months.

“You don’t know how happy I am to get this quilt back,” the woman said when she arrived. “A year ago, my husband and I lost just about everything. The house, my husband’s mechanic shop. We could rebuild those things, though. I’d never be able to re-create my grandmother’s quilts.

“All the quilts were special, but there was one I treasured most. The first one Grandma taught me to make. She sat in a chair at the quilting frame and sewed a stitch on top, passing the needle down to me, sitting on the floor.

“I’d take care of the stitch underneath and pass the needle back up. It was this quilt. My grandmother chose the color of the border to match my name, Ruby.

“I stumbled on your ad by chance. I don’t normally read The Atkins Chronicle, but my husband had a copy on his desk.”

The Atkins Chronicle? The sewing group had never run an ad there. Why would they? The town was 140 miles away, a three-hour drive. Lenice had never even heard of that small-town paper.

Ruby showed her the page: “Last week, several Chroniclereaders brought us a feature from Countrymagazine. The picture of the quilt accompanied this story…” Lenice’s ad was reprinted below the article. 

None of Lenice’s friends had any idea who would pass along the year-old advertisement. It was as unfathomable as the quilt arriving practically unscathed from 140 miles away.

But there was something about this quilt that brought everyone together. A grandmother and her granddaughter. A church sewing circle. Readers across the state of Arkansas, and the communities of Highland and Atkins. 

Each patch had been chosen, each stitch made, with love. Strong enough to survive even the most powerful storm.