Sample Stories


 

2nd Place Winner of 2004 OKC Writers Inc. Contest
& 3rd Place Winner of 2005 Oklahoma Writers Federation Inc. District Contest

The Oklahoma Twister Quilt
as told by Frances Thompson

      Mike and Shirley Thompson were just sitting down to dinner that fateful Monday, May 3rd, 1999, when storm sirens started blaring.  They flipped on the TV to hear Gary England's weather warning; "This is an F5 Tornado with wind speeds clocked at a record 318 miles/hour.  All those in the Bridgecreek, Moore, south Oklahoma City and Del City areas should take shelter immediately.  Multi-cell tornadoes have touched ground."

      The Thompsons quickly grabbed pillows and blankets and jumped into their bathtub, and pulled a foam mattress over their heads.  They waited and prayed as they held each other.  They listened and guessed at what was flying past as torrential rains and howling winds ripped houses in their neighborhood apart, tossing them like matchsticks.  Their own house started to creak and groan and then exploded.  The next thing they saw was the ominous dark sky as they peeked from beneath their mattress.  Occasional flashes of lightning illuminated debris flying by -- a window fan, a porch swing, a chimney -- just over their no longer roofed lodging.

      After the eye of the storm passed over, Mike and Shirley climbed out of their bathtub to survey the damage.  With the roof gone, everything was sopping wet.  Every window had exploded.  Broken glass and  insulation were embedded in any remaining furniture.  The garage was nowhere to be seen and their car was gone.  The wind had even ripped up the driveway pavement.  Pieces of their neighbor's two-by-fours and sheet metal now lay in what used to be Mike and Shirley's living room.

      It was a miracle that they and the neighbors were even alive!  They praised God, taking comfort that they still had each other.  They told themselves that was all that really mattered as they stepped over soggy photo albums and broken china.  They were safe even though their house was beyond repair.  "We can buy a new house, " Mike kept telling Shirley.  "It will be our new beginning together."

     They remembered what Mike's Dad always said, "We are super overcomers, conquerors in all things in Christ Jesus."  A preacher's kid, Mike had always been taught to count his blessings and trust God to provide for all his needs.  The twister would reveal how much his dad had taught him.

      As the next hours unfolded and Mike and Shirley further explored their chaos, they lamented the loss of irreplaceable family albums, school mementos and wedding pictures.  Then they discovered the one treasure they valued above all others.  "Mike," Shirley shouted, "here's the Wedding Sampler quilt your Mom made for us!"  Mike's mom had made it by hand and given it to the couple for a wedding present.  It had been on their bed since they were married.  Only now it was filthy, embedded with asbestos and wrapped around the washer.  And it was shredded in several places.  "Maybe your Mom can mend it." Shirley said with hope and desperation.  They wrapped the precious quilt and took it along with a few necessities to spend the night with Mike's parents.

      "I can't promise anything," Frances Thompson said as she dubiously examined the damaged quilt, "but I'll give it my best shot!  After all, it's a blue ribbon winner and survivor just like the two of you and certainly deserves my utmost attention and loving care.  How ironic!" she said.  "God must have a real sense of humor for the Oklahoma Twister block in the center of the quilt to be the only block that needs no mending."

      Frances worked on the Twister quilt all summer long.  She gingerly washed and rewashed the quilt to get the asbestos out.  Then, tediously, she appliquťd thirty-nine hearts to cover the tears.  Fortunately she had squirreled away enough of the original fabric scraps to make the restorations unnoticeable.

      In the meantime, Mike and Shirley bought a home in Norman and began settling in.  Frances made duplicates of as many of the missing family pictures as she had and presented them, along with the restored quilt, as a housewarming gift.

      "Wow!" Shirley exclaimed.  "It looks better than new!  Thank you so much for your gift of love and labor  You can't imagine how much we've missed our wedding quilt and how much it means to us that you cared enough to spend the long hours to recreate it!  She gave her mother-in-law a happy hug and then said, "I'm twice blessed and will cherish it forever.  It's going back on our bed to christen our new house and celebrate our new beginning.  It will be our lasting remembrance of your love, God's protection, and the tornado that made us all realize how important family is."

Psalms 91:2,4  "I will say of the LORD, 'He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust.'... He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge;

 

3rd Place Winner of 2005 Oklahoma Writers Federation Inc. District Contest

Grapes of Wrath Yield Treasures
as told by Dorotha Jean Dani

    It was 105 degrees that summer day of 1935, when I saw a sight Iíll never forget.  I was six years old and fetching eggs when a flock of mismatched birds landed on the parched ground that had been our vegetable garden before heat seared and shriveled every last zucchini and tomato.  These birds were agitated and clearly exhausted.  I looked at the sky and screamed to Mama as I ran into our small frame farmhouse south of Cordell, Oklahoma, "Mama, Mama, a huge black cloud is coming again."

    "Quick," she shouted at me, "ring the dinner gong to call the others in from the fields. Every minute counts."  Already Mama was reaching for a quilt.  "Then run right back in here and help me drape this table.  We'll get under our tent to protect our lungs from flying dirt."

    Within ten minutes the sky was completely black with howling winds and cutting sand and dust that could choke the life from any creature.   Soon the whole family was huddled beneath the quilts and praying that God would spare the cows, pigs and chickens and what was left of the crop, one more time.

    Such was life in the Dust Bowl Days of western Oklahoma, our tent days and nights repeated over and over.  That natural hardship combined with the Great Depression, was made worse by the fact that my dad was ill and unable to work during most of my childhood.  But Daddy could do one thing.   I remember the beautiful String quilt he made by hand my first year of school.  During Dad's convalescence, he gained a feeling of accomplishment by creating beauty from cast-off scraps of fabric.  And the family gained needed warm bedding.  Piecing and quilting also became Dad's therapy -- a quiet time when he could pray and meditate on Godís promises to provide. He dreamed of the time he and his family could join the thousands of other farmers in their flight for jobs and a better life in California.

    Since Mother was forced to do most of the farm work, she didnít have much leisure time for needlework.  But I remember the beautiful Friendship quilt she made with all the signed quilt blocks of church friends and family.  All the neighbor ladies gathered at our house to complete her Friendship quilt. We prepared a feast to celebrate, cleared away the mess, then lowered the quilting frame from the ceiling.  Needles flew amidst much gossip and laughter.  By the end of the long day, the quilt was finished and I had learned to quilt just from watching.  The ladies graciously allowed me to put in the last few stitches just to appease my incessant requests to help.

    In those days of little money or means, entertainment revolved around school and church activities.  Every summer a visiting minister came for an all-day revival under the brush arbor.  We enjoyed singing and praising God for His faithfulness.  Afterwards we shared a potluck feast and a watermelon feed that climaxed the unforgettable event.

    In 1943 during World War II, Dadís dream for a better life in California became a reality. We moved to Sacramento. Thatís where I met my husband, Charles, who had just returned from the war.  We married in 1947 and Charles'  Mom made us a beautiful wedding quilt, which I still treasure.

    Within that barren landscape of the Great Depression and Oklahoma's Dust Bowl Days were other treasures which I hold dear.  Ours was a story of courage, hope and love in the midst of poverty and struggles against drought and endless dust that was as much a part of life as sunshine and air.  The hardships bound our family together in unity and dependence on Godís daily provision, making us stronger in our faith, able to withstand any heartache.

"Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.  They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness. 'The LORD is my portion,' says my soul. 'Therefore I hope in Him!'" Lamentations 3:22-24

 

A Quilt for Chase and Colton
as told by Kathy Wilburn Sanders

      Kathy Wilburn woke with a slow stretch before remembering the date. April 19.  Years before on this date she'd given birth to her daughter, Edye.  She rolled over and smiled into her pillow.  Edye was a grown woman and mother now, and that umbilical connection from mother to child had stretched to include a whole new generation -- her sons, Colton and Chase. Kathy glanced at the clock, and pulled herself out of bed to dress for work. She and Edye worked in the same building in downtown Oklahoma City.  Kathy couldn't help wonder how Edye was feeling this morning. She'd been home with strep throat the past two days, but her co-workers had baked a cake and planned a surprise party at the office. Edye knew something was up and wouldn't want to miss it.

      Just as Kathy suspected, Edye dropped Chase and Colton off at the daycare located in the Alfred P. Murrah Building before reporting for work.

      "Surprise! Happy birthday!"

      Candles stood on the birthday cake like sentinels with blazing hats. Laughing, Edye took a deep breath and blew....

      At that moment, a rental truck loaded with ammonium nitrate blew half the nine-story Murrah building into oblivion. Candles wobbled as the building where Edye and Kathy worked trembled from the blast.

      Kathy could hear panic clawing at Edye's throat. "Mom, what if it hit the boys?" They raced through smoke, debris and falling glass to the Murrah Building.

      The blast that felled the Murrah Building on April 19, 1995, left a crater in the hearts of Kathy Wilburn and Edye Smith. Two-year old Colton and three-year old Chase both died as a result of the bombing.

      For nearly two weeks, the whole world watched as exhausted rescue workers pulled bodies from the rubble. After the smoke cleared, 168 people were dead and 400 injured in the worst terrorist attack to date on U.S. soil. The whole nation mourned with the families of those slain.

      For the next six years, Kathy traveled the country trying to weave together the events leading up to that fateful day. She retraced the paths Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols took leading up to the bombing. She explored white supremacist and anti-government groups. Her investigative reports were used in the documentary, "A Cry for Justice: The Untold Story Behind the Oklahoma City Bombing," produced by MGA Films and released after Timothy McVeigh's execution in April, 2001.

      Chase and Colton's family never got to say goodbye. They weren't even allowed to view their bodies. Kathy clings to the chipmunk underwear Chase wore that morning.  "I've kept their clothes and toys as reminders, because that's all I have left of the boys,"  Kathy says. "On April 19, 1995, their lives were erased, and we were left with lives we didn't choose.

      "My husband was furious with God, and died of pancreatic cancer two years after the bombing. I didn't know why the boys died, but I knew I couldn't get through the pain without God's grace, which has proven sufficient. I now know that God didn't take my grandchildren, but received them when they died."

      Many people responded with acts of kindness, but one stands out to Kathy Wilburn. Susan Smart, from Enid, Oklahoma, called and asked for photos of Colton and Chase. Six months later, Kathy's doorbell rang and Susan presented her with a beautiful quilt covered with all the boys' pictures, telling the story of their lives.

      Another memorial quilt featured a little boy with angel wings in the center, surrounded by nine patch blocks and star quilting on a cloud print background. The penned inscription reads, "In memory of Colton and Chase Smith, Budded on earth to bloom in heaven. A gift of loving stitches from Lincoln Nebraska Quilter's Guild." "I carry the scars from that day just as if I were burned," Kathy says. "But I've learned that every day is a gift from God that I must spend wisely.

      April 19, 1995, is one such day.

      It's the day of Chase and Colton's death.

       It's also the day their mother was born.

      Sometimes the loss seems to outweigh the joy.  When that happens, Kathy wraps herself in a quilt and the joyous memories it holds.

"My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness."    2 Corinthians 12:9

 

Blankie Bliss
by Lisa Alexander

      I groggily answer the late-night phone call.  "Mommy," my eight-year-old daughter Emmali whispers.  "Mommy, I forgot my blanket."  She is spending the night four houses away.  I suggest that her friend will let her borrow one.  "No, Mommy.  She doesn't have anything I can go to sleep with.  I need my blankie..."

      The blankie!  That piece of frayed cloth Emmali carries to bed to sleep with.  It was originally part of a nursery set my mother had made.  A small quilt with glorious pastel pink and blue angels soaring across flannel skies.  Now, the faded seraphim barely cling to the quilt's cotton backing.  As a baby, Emmali had loved pressing the soft material against her cherub cheeks and twisting the lacy border between her tiny fingers.

      As she outgrew diapers and bottles, I began easing the threadbare blankie from her grasp.  She reluctantly allowed me to put it up for safekeeping with her older brother's blankets.  All three of the blankets remained tucked away in the top of the linen closet for several years.  Then, in a day of spring-cleaning, every towel, sheet and blanket was removed from the closet.  Emmali, then seven, spied a corner of her blankie in the pile and quickly grabbed it, pulling it close to her face as she had done when she was a baby.  Since reuniting with this long-ago friend, she has nestled with it each night.

      Except on this night, when she phones at nearly 11:00 p.m., begging me to bring it to her.  No, she says, she cannot make it through just this one night without it.  A former blankie-toting child myself, I understand her desperation.  I plod down the stairs in search of my shoes.

      "Where ya goin', Mom?" my 14 year-old son, Riles, asks.  When I tell him about the phone call, he offers to take the blanket to his sister.  I smile, remembering the farm blankie he had been so attached to when he was young.  He would understand.

      On this late night, Riles gets on his bike, flinging Emmali's blankie over his shoulder.  As he zooms down the street, the tattered quilt seems to transform into the cape of a superhero.

      Before returning to bed, I stop by my baby's room to hear the reassuring rhythm of her breathing.  Grace tugs at her tiny quilt as if she is trying to catch the pastel pink, purple and blue butterflies that flutter across it.  Butterflies of beauty they are tonight, though faded they will surely be in years to come.  Faded, but well-loved.

"He gives them security, and they rely on it;" Job 24:23

 

From Rags to Riches
by Carla Burt

      It began as a sewing lesson for our small class of Life Skills students in the Fall of 2002.  Our lead teacher, an experienced quilter, decided that having each child make a quilt for someone less fortunate could teach more than sewing skills.

      What an unexpected and wonderful lesson we received!  Over the next several months the students carefully selected, ironed, cut and sewed donated material under the helpful eye of our teacher, along with me, the teacher's aide, and also with the help of our occupational therapist.  The students decided to give their quilts to the children at the Uzwelo orphanage in Piet Relief, South Africa -- small victims of the AIDS pandemic.

      A local newspaper reporter visited the class to view the fruits of their labors.  The story and photo of the students and the quilts appeared in our local newspaper and then the project began to snowball.  I received telephone calls from people whose hearts are easily touched by the hurts and needs of others.  "Could I please make a quilt for the children?"

      "Our youth group would like to make quilts for the orphans."

      "I've never quilted, by my friend is willing to help me.  May I donate a quilt?"

      For me, it was a humbling experience to see the outpouring of love and concern. 

      In June of 2003 I packed up 15 quilts and headed to Africa to be with my daughter for the birth of her first child.  Miraculously, that number of quilts exactly matched the number of children and caregivers living at Uzwelo.  In Africa most people live on the edge of survival.  Blankets are treasured possessions, often used as backpacks to carry children and later to provide warmth for them against the freezing nights.

      Arriving at Uzwelo ("Mercy" in Zulu), we displayed these colorful gifts of love on a fence.  Africans love color.  One by one, beginning with the house mothers and down to two-year-old Boetie ("little brother") each member of the Uzwelo family chose his favorite quilt.  Each child, black eyes wide with awe, waited patiently for his turn to lovingly pick out and then to touch his quilt.  Joy lit every face as they gently lifted their quilts off the fence.  The hugs, tears, smiles and repeated "Thank-you, Thank-you" were unspeakably endearing as recipients delightfully wrapped their quilts around them.  The drab yard danced as if filled with beautifully colored butterflies.

      Out of one person's cast-off rags emerged precious riches, sent with love to bless and enrich the lives of other, unseen, unmet, yet cared for and valued just the same.  One small act of kindness by three young handicapped children blossomed into blessing for many, many more, both givers and receivers alike.

      More quilts have been made and sent by the youth group at All Saints Parish in Peterboro, New Hampshire.  Funds raised by youth groups from New Hampshire, Massachusetts and California have enabled Wellspring Ministries in Piet Retief to purchase a food freezer and begin a weekly food program for mothers and children who used to forage daily at the local dump.

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."  Matthew 5:16