During our major antiquing days, we gathered a substantial collection of quilts and used them on beds, as wall hangings, and on the backs of couches. Sweetwater Farm, our 1802 Ohio farmhouse was the perfect context for quilts, and I loved changing them with the seasons. Our home in Madison, however, was not a quilt house or perhaps our sensibilities had changed, but our new house, this dollhouse cottage, may be more of a quilt house. Or at least that is what I thought the other morning, which opened its eyes slowly after the longest night of the year, the Winter Solstice.
Perhaps I will change my plan for this bedroom. Instead of the Pottery Barn duvet with its print of birds and summery greens on crisp white folded at the end of the bed over a white coverlet, maybe I will initiate a Quilt of the Month Club for this room. All fun to contemplate from under the covers in my flannel pajamas, only stirring enough to turn on the light and open the book waiting for me on my bedside table.
Snuggling under the quilt I thought about comfort and all the ways I experience comfort. Yes, there is the meatloaf and mashed potatoes or the slippers and robe kind of comfort, but what brings the kind of comfort that touches my soul, that enriches my life, lightens the load, and encourages me to be a comfort to others?
Comfort comes in many forms:
* The lit lamp in the window at dusk.
* An arm extended before crossing an icy street.
* A hug, anytime, anywhere.
* The welcome of friends after a long absence.
* Familiar handwriting on a letter in the mailbox.
* Time set aside for fellowship with family and friends.
* "Found" time to read or rest or pray.
* Stillness in the midst of busyness.
* The words of carols sung and scripture read every year at this time, but always with the invitation to sing and read them, as if for the first time.
For example, how often have you heard "Comfort Ye, Comfort Ye, My People" from Handel's Messiah and felt your heart lift? These words are taken from The Book of Consolation of Israel, specifically Isaiah 40, in which the prophet is called to announce God's coming. The Exile is nearly over! And isn't that the way with comfort. For at least a moment, one knows connection with another, with one's self, with God.
Words of Comfort
I invite you to sit with these words of comfort.
The God of all comfort comforts us so that we can comfort others. (2 Corinthians 7:6-7)
May your lovingkindness comfort me. (Psalm 119:76)
Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)
What are the lessons and opportunities in these words?
The Call to Comfort
It seems to me that in order to be comforted, we must be open to that possibility. At the same time, along with receiving comfort, we are called to comfort others --and as a bonus, we are likely to know comfort then as well.
Here's the rub, however. Comfort does not necessarily mean being comfortable. To comfort and to know comfort at the heart and hands of another, one may need to stretch, to act in ways that are not easy or familiar. One may need to risk and move out of one's comfort zone. A room at the inn may not be available. You may find yourself in the stable with the cows and the sheep.
Furthermore, the comfort that comes from snuggling under a quilt does not mean I get to stay there all day. The challenge is to carry that comfort with me into the day and to offer that same comfort to others. The Prophet calls me to be comforted and to comfort.
Where do you find comfort? In what ways have you been comforted recently and how have you received comfort? May this season offer you comfort, but also help you discover yourself as a comforter.