When we made the decision to move to Dallas and buy a house across the street from the one where I grew up — the house where my dad was slowly losing my mom to dementia memory by memory, and where our son and his wife and their baby were also living, helping Dad navigate this heart-breaking journey — I wanted a visual representation of the season we were about to enter. Four generations living in close community, the old fading away even as the new blossomed, all inextricably connected by blood and God’s eternal purposes.
I wanted to anchor this moment in imagery, so I commissioned a painting from my friend, Emily Wierenga. A single branch extending through four seasons, with white winged birds blowing through it all like the breath of God.
Emily more than met the challenge. Using color, texture, and abstract form, she painted meaning, and it’s no surprise to me that she writes the same way. When Abingdon Press asked her to write a book about a quilt, the story’s structure itself became a patchwork — the past and the present intentionally interspersed, each piece a collage of characters and themes beautifully interwoven.
I read the first half of A Promise in Pieces on an airplane flying to Detroit to speak at a women’s retreat, and I finished it on the flight home. As I closed the final page, I couldn’t help thinking of an illustration I’d used at the retreat:
If you drop a pebble in water, ripples are set in motion. But let’s say it’s not a pebble. Let’s say it’s a priceless jewel. Something you dearly love. Something irreplaceable. You’ve spent your life trying to protect it, and now, due to circumstances beyond your control, it’s gone. You stare in disbelief at the spot where it went down, a multitude of “if only’s” swirling in your head. You wish you could press rewind or wake up and realize it’s all just a horrible nightmare, but you can’t, and it isn’t.
At this point, you have a choice. You can keep staring at the spot where your treasure sank, or you can watch the ripples to see what God is doing.
Because He is always doing something beautiful. And your story? The one that feels like it just went desperately wrong? It’s not just yours. Your story intersects my story and a thousand other stories. The ripples set in motion in our lives touch other lives, and more ripples are set in motion. We’re not autonomous. We are members of one another, and all of our individual stories are part of God’s greater story. The story in which God redeems all that is broken.
A Promise in Pieces is a story about brokenness and redemption. It’s a patchwork of stories within a story within a story, all of it revolving around a quilt that has a life of its own, each of its squares a promise to someone whose story has been woven into the life fabric of one woman, a World War II army nurse named Clara.
It’s a book about what it means to be human — the search for significance and acceptance and love, and the fears and misunderstandings that often drive us to run from the very things we so desperately desire. It’s about loss and healing, frailty and forgiveness — the way life intersects life, and meaning finds us right where we are, especially when we’re searching for it somewhere else.
It’s light set against darkness, hope against despair, and the remarkable truth that God takes these contrasts and stitches them together into beauty, all of this told in the words of an artist — words that paint mental pictures: “seagulls dipping down and rising like washerwomen, pinning up the waves” and “the breeze lifted their hair and the edges of their spirits” and “I stepped off the train and fell into the arms of home.”
Emily has deftly pieced together loneliness and love, war and peace, life and death, and running through it all is one shining thread. God’s grace.
To read A Promise in Pieces is to be wrapped in the warmth of redemption’s embrace.
Maybe your life should intersect Clara’s, too?
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