The Warmth of Redemption’s Embrace

15 04 2014

IMG_3712When 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?


* * *

You can purchase A Promise in Pieces here, or at any major book outlet, or visit Emily’s webpage to learn more.








10 responses

15 04 2014

This is perfectly beautiful Jeanne. If I hadn’t received that advance copy, your review would make me run out and buy it. She has done great work..
We have one of her paintings on our mantle. Her sweet spirit shines through.

16 04 2014

Thanks, Linda. I love my Emily painting, and I love her book. She’s a treasure.

15 04 2014

Having also read Emily’s book, I am so touched by the way you saw the story as a quilt itself, the pieces and the patches all woven together. I translated the thread of grace and Emily throughout the book, but I failed to realize that each character, each time setting, each place, each was woven together as one beautiful quilt that covers us with the warm embrace of grace. No wonder I felt so cozy when reading this story…. You describe it so well here Jeanne. I love the painting too! Love Emily – just love her!

16 04 2014

Thank you! It’s a beautiful book by a beautiful soul. I love her, too.

15 04 2014
Jody Lee Collins

Jeanne, I’m in the middle of “A Promise…” and have to say it’s hard to put down! Your illustration about dropping the pebble/jewel into the water (or losing the pebble/jewel so to speak) and watching the ripples move is a powerful image. It ties in perfectly with your review. Isn’t that Emily gifted?
We are all so blessed. (p.s. I hope some day our lives intersect….!)

16 04 2014

Thanks, Jody! I hope our lives intersect, too. I expect they will. 🙂

15 04 2014

This is beautiful, Jeanne, and makes me want to order Em’s book right NOW! I’ve been buried under books from friends this years – a great way to be buried, let me hasten to add – but I want to make room for just one more. Thanks so much.

16 04 2014

Thanks, Diana. I know what you mean about being buried under friends’ books. I guess that’s what we get for having such gifted friends. 😉 You’ll love Emily’s book once you dig your way out from under the pile.

18 04 2014
Julie Garmon

Beautiful, Jeanne. Just beautiful. RTing it now. 🙂

19 04 2014

Thanks so much, Julie! I appreciate you, and I know Emily does, too!

Your comments are a gift. Please know I read each one with gratitude.

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