The Memory Quilt: A Christmas Story for Our Times

The Memory Quilt: A Christmas Story for Our Times

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by T. D. Jakes

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The Memory Quilt

Bishop Jakes weaves inspirational life lessons into this tender and touching tale, a thoughtful reflection on our actions throughout the giving season and all year-round.

Is there room in your heart?

Lela Edwards wants



The Memory Quilt

Bishop Jakes weaves inspirational life lessons into this tender and touching tale, a thoughtful reflection on our actions throughout the giving season and all year-round.

Is there room in your heart?

Lela Edwards wants nothing more than to spend the holidays with her family. But her husband of fifty years passed away recently, her daughters live far from their old Chicago neighborhood, and her granddaughter, Darcie, is avoiding her grandmother for fear Lela will judge her decision to get a divorce. Irritated and lonely, Lela concentrates on the lessons of the Virgin Mary with her Bible study group and begins to piece together an unfinished quilt she set aside long ago.

The cold winter brings some unexpected rough patches for Lela and her loved ones. The closer she examines the Scriptures, the more she realizes how quick she is to find fault with the people around her. Lela soon discovers she has woven the Virgin Mary’s lessons into the handiwork of the quilt, a reminder that by following the guidance of the cherished story we revisit every December to celebrate the meaning of Christ, she can learn from her mistakes and find favor with God.

Readers everywhere will find an uplifting message of hope in this heart-warming story.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
…[Jakes] stitches the story of the Virgin Mary into a modern-day tale that's inspiring and warmhearted…sharp, sassy Lela is the real draw here. And as she stumbles and rights herself, Jakes achieves his purpose: teaching the Bible, gently. — Kristi Lanier, The Washington Post
Kristi Lanier
…[Jakes] stitches the story of the Virgin Mary into a modern-day tale that's inspiring and warmhearted…sharp, sassy Lela is the real draw here. And as she stumbles and rights herself, Jakes achieves his purpose: teaching the Bible, gently.
—The Washington Post
Library Journal
Lela Edwards recently lost her husband of 50 years, and her daughters all live far away. Her favorite granddaughter, Darcie, has just left her husband and is expecting a child. Knowing that her grandmother would not approve of her decision, Darcie travels to Texas for the holidays to see her mother instead of visiting with Lela in Chicago. Finding herself alone for Christmas, Lela joins a ladies Bible study group focusing on the Virgin Mary. Can Lela heed her guidance? VERDICT Jakes is a household name among evangelical Christians. His books have sold millions, and he has been compared to Billy Graham. Jakes's popularity alone recommends library purchase of his first Christmas story, a character-driven tale that will also appeal to fans of Kimberla Lawson Roby and other authors of African American inspirational fiction.

Product Details

Atria Books
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5.26(w) x 8.02(h) x 0.64(d)

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

"She's filed," Jean said.

"What was that, dear?" Lela Edwards asked, hastily twisting the volume control knob on the clock radio, abruptly quieting "O Come, All Ye Faithful" to an unrecognizable muffle.

"'She's filed,' I said."

Phone conversations with Jean were like this — begun without much small talk. Barely a hello, and she was off with the subject like a sprinter at the sound of the gun.

"Darcie filed for divorce," she said, skipping a few beats before she added, "Mother, don't start."

"What am I starting? I'm just trying to understand what you're saying," Lela said.

Jean sighed. "Darcie filed for divorce yesterday." She said the words slowly, as if reluctant to repeat herself.

"I thought you said a few months ago that they were thinking of getting a divorce. Here the child's barely been married a year. Didn't they even try to work things out?"

"Mother, I'm just telling you what's going on."

Lela brushed away a speck of lint from her blue jersey knit skirt and glanced at the large clock on the wall next to the refrigerator in the long kitchen/dining area. Nine forty-five. She was supposed to leave in five minutes for the Wednesday women's Bible study and here she was hearing news like this. Barbara would be outside honking her horn soon, and nobody wanted to hear that "La Cucaracha" song that Barbara's son had installed in the car. At least she already had her coat on.

Jean made a noise, as if aware that Lela's attention had strayed. "She's coming here to Missouri City for Christmas, Mother, instead of what you and she talked about."

"She can't pick up a phone and tell her grandmama that?"This was supposed to be the perfect Christmas — or near perfect. And that meant having all three of her daughters and her — she had to say — favorite granddaughter home for the holidays.

"Mother, you lecture."


"That's why I'm telling you. Besides...I want Darcie here with me, Mother. She's two months from her due date. This is the last time she can fly here."

"She lives in Indiana, Jean. She'd rather fly a thousand miles to Texas than drive here to spend Christmas with her grandmama like she promised?"

"Mother...she's feeling vulnerable right now — "

"And that's another reason why the girl don't need to be divorced." She tried to ignore the echo of her own lectures given to the girls over the years, filled with "Don't say don't if you mean doesn't."

"Now she's gonna be a single mother — " Lela thought out loud.

"Tell that to Doug, Mother. He's the reason this divorce is happening right now."

"I still don't understand — "

She was interrupted by the sound of a horn blaring the first notes of "Jingle Bells." Lela shook her head, grateful at least that the song had been changed to something less tacky than "La Cucaracha." "That's Barbara. I gotta go. We'll discuss this later."


In the silence that followed, Lela suddenly sensed an ocean's worth of words left unsaid or words she wished had been unsaid over the years, washed along by a tide of unmet expectations. She was tired of swimming against the current. "I told you Barbara's waiting."

"Have you given any thought to what I suggested last week? About your moving here? The neighborhood's getting bad and — "

"Barbara's waiting, Jean."

"Okay. Love you." Yet Jean's words sounded a little reluctant.

"Love you too." Lela snapped o the radio, rubbing her shoulder as she stood. "Arthur" was kicking up today. She hoped her arthritis-strength ibuprofen was in her purse.

As she headed to the front door, she absently searched for Smokey — a stray she'd picked up around her garbage can the previous month. Somebody's throwaway, she surmised. The kitten had a weird grayish coloring that she could almost swear was blue (but cats weren't blue, were they?). She didn't know what kind of cat he was. But she'd named him after Smokey Robinson, the famous R & B singer. She'd felt sorry for him until she got the bill to deworm him.

Barbara's horn sounded "Jingle Bells" again.

"Hold your horses," she said softly. Barbara couldn't hear her from this distance. She squeezed into her black pumps, knowing she would regret the choice later, before grabbing the purse and Bible waiting on an end table.

Wonder if I need a hat. She fingered the gray locks curling just above her shoulders. She stuck a hand out the door to get a sense of the temperature. Good. The weather was mild. She hated covering up her new haircut. The wind picked up under a sky that was a weak pastel blue but didn't look to deposit snow anytime soon. The 45 degree temperature was too high for that. If the weather continued like this, it looked to be a brown Christmas in two weeks. That was fine with her. She hated driving in the snow.

Her best friend, Barbara Wiggins, at seventy-three — two years older — still liked to drive in any kind of weather, and so be it. Lela grunted as she folded herself into Barbara's silver PT Cruiser. The scent of bayberry — one of Barbara's favorite scents — immediately enfolded her.

"'Bout time," said Barbara, running a hand along her short, salt-and-pepper, mostly salt afro.

"Sorry. That was Jean on the phone. Told the girl I had to go."

"Jean? Everything okay?" Barbara put the car in gear. "O Holy Night" blared from WMBI on the radio.

Lela sighed, wondering how much to reveal. She didn't feel like getting into it with Barbara. "Everything's fine."

Barbara's glance was wry. "If you say so. As if I didn't know better judging by how you look right now."

"Just drive, girl."

"Yes'm." Barbara saluted, as she headed north — the only way they could go, with Laflin being a one-way street — toward Morgan Park.

Lela sighed as they passed the last of the bungalows on the long block of 117th and Laflin. This was the kind of residential neighborhood that some didn't believe still existed on the far southeast side of Chicago. People didn't expect more than projects, burned-out buildings, and crime stats here now. But there were still some houses around, even if they weren't looking as well kept up as they had been twenty years ago. Lela blamed the decline of the neighborhood on the new blood on the block, some of whom — like the woman in the last house on the northeast corner — were merely renting. Key people, owners who acted as neighborhood watch people and were house-proud, had moved away over the years. There were more and more signs of a gang's influence now, with graffiti scrawled across an abandoned building here and there on 119th Street or even across a garage door.

Still, she was pleased to see that many of the houses at least were decorated for Christmas. More than a few houses boasted the large snow globe that the block club picked out. Surprisingly, the "newbies" knew how to follow instructions and kept things uniform.

Lela was one of the few residents left who had purchased the houses when they were built between 1963 and 1965. Her particular house was bought in 1964, a year after Barbara and her husband bought theirs. Walt and Lela were able to purchase the house only because the financing fell through for another couple bidding on it, an event she attributed to God's mercy.

The neighborhood hadn't changed much, ethnically speaking. It was still African American for the most part, suggesting that racial segregation was still an issue in some parts of Chi-Town.

In less than fifteen minutes Barbara pulled up at the corner of 112th and Vincennes adjacent to the old Catholic school housing Briarwood Baptist. What a relief. Unlike on Sunday mornings, they didn't have to park two blocks away.

Lela's feet were already hurting from the tight shoes by the time they reached the red-brick fellowship hall, the first building north of the sanctuary. And they still had to descend a flight of stairs to the basement level and Fellowship Room 1, where the senior women's Bible study met. She grunted down each one, wondering not for the first time why the senior women had to struggle down the stairs while the junior women met on the first floor. Why couldn't they drag themselves down here and switch with the senior women? Maybe she would talk to Pastor about that.

She sighed as she entered the table-lined double room with its cream-colored walls, enlivened by framed posters depicting various types of flowers.

There were about fifty in the group and forty who showed up regularly. Since the church had made a considerable effort to combat the segregation evident on the South Side, different races were represented. About thirty women were there now, carrying on the traditional "Christmas clash," with half the group in a myriad of red and green Christmas sweaters and the other half favoring jewel-toned sweaters (in purple, yellow, and blue) — all looking like living Christmas ornaments.

Estelle, the new widow, had shown up. But, Lela wondered, why? She was only forty-five, hardly senior. Most of the other women were fifty-five at least. And she usually dressed like a hussy, just like today. Here it was ten AM and she had on a skin-tight purple two-piece out t like she was going to a club or something. She was slim and petite but now reminded Lela of a grape. Who is she trying to impress? Lela thought to herself.

Lela nodded a greeting. Her smile was much warmer as she turned to Nita Juarez, who promptly handed her a small, foil-covered bowl.

"Mole as promised," Nita said, a mischievous grin highlighting her impish face. "Put that over your chicken, okay?"

Lela smiled. "Girl, I might have gas as a result, but I'm sure gonna eat this. Thank you. Uh, gracias."

Nita smiled and patted her arm as if Lela had performed a cute trick. "De nada."

"Everybody get settled so we can get started, ladies." As usual, Lorraine Collins, the Bible study leader, didn't need a microphone. Her deep voice carried across the long fellowship room — a carryover from her work on the stock exchange several years back. She was tall — over six feet — and had an enviously flawless, chocolate brown complexion as well as a ramrod posture that the Army would have been proud of. She was also seventy but didn't look it.

"Last call for the coffee and doughnuts," added Donna Evans, the fifty-five-year-old, foot-shorter, auburn-haired (well, more and more silver streaks were starting to show) co-leader of the study. She wore a sweater with a snowflake pattern the main color of which matched her startling gray-blue eyes and highlighted her fair complexion.

Perhaps Donna shouldn't have mentioned the coffee and doughnuts, Lela surmised. Half the women already seated instantly gravitated toward the table. Another fifteen minutes passed before all were settled again.

"With this being the Christmas season, we have a challenge for you ladies," Lorraine announced. "For the next couple of weeks until Christmas, we'll follow the story of a woman who was very important to this season — Mary."

Lela's eyes opened wide. They hardly ever focused on Mary.

Donna held up several pink sheets. "I have a handout with nine Scripture passages. You can use it or read the passages in your Bible."

Estelle volunteered to pass out the handout, a move Lela saw as a sad bid for attention.

She shook her head, as she turned her attention to the passages listed on the sheet. Well, this was good for about a couple of days' reading. She couldn't see stretching this out for two weeks.

"We might think we already know all about Mary, but God has something fresh to teach us through her journey," said Lorraine. "When the Gospel of Luke first mentions her, Mary was probably just a young teen — someone you wouldn't pay much attention to. But we're going to pay some attention and in the coming weeks ask the Holy Spirit to open our hearts to what we can learn from the woman God considered highly favored."Lela returned home at twelve thirty to a ringing phone and a loudly meowing kitten who greeted her at the door demanding food. She answered the less insistent one first.

"I called your cell a hundred times," said Eileen, as soon as Lela picked up. Eileen lived in the house next door on the right with her eighty-two-year-old father, James. "Why didn't you pick up?"

Lela crunched down her irritation. "I don't like using it."

"Why have a cell phone if you don't use it?"

"I'm sure you called for a reason, Eileen." And what is she doing home at this time of day? Why isn't she at work? Lela thought.

"Daddy thinks he heard someone trying to break into your garage while you were away."

Lela listened but thought, his imagination, more than likely. Wasn't it only last month that he thought he heard someone breaking into her house and called the police? Turned out to be only the wind.

"When I passed your garage, your door was wide open," Eileen said.Well, that got Lela's attention. But who, she asked herself, would break into a garage in the middle of the day? That took some nerve. Maybe they had waited until she had left for church. Or it could have happened last night. That sounded more likely. She hadn't been out to her garage today. Was it the same person who broke into Barbara's garage a month ago?

The usual suspect was the kid across the street, who lived with his mother and her latest boyfriend. The little hooligan ran wild around the neighborhood and was probably in a gang by now. Lela shook her head. How was it that at thirteen, he had attitude to spare?

"Thanks for letting me know, Eileen."

"I'm making some fruitcake. You wanna come over for a slice?"

The last thing she wanted to do was go over to Eileen's. She didn't like Eileen's father, James, who had moved in after he suffered a heart attack. Eileen had made a feeble and embarrassing matchmaking attempt with Lela and the father the previous year.

Lela shook her head at that memory. She couldn't imagine why her neighbor would assume she'd be interested in an eighty-two-year-old man who continually grumbled at life, hardly bathed, and seemed a trifle senile. There was, after all, that time when he mooned a couple of teens hanging out on the sidewalk in front of the house. The police were called on him that time, not the kids. Why Eileen thought Lela could handle a man like James was anybody's guess.

"Maybe some other time. Thanks, Eileen."

Better check that garage.

She switched shoes first, then braved the wind that now seemed decidedly frigid.

The heavy yellow door on the alley side of her detached garage was open at the bottom, but less than an eighth of the way. So much for it being wide open. It had to be a kid trying to match his thieving skills against her garage door. He lost, fortunately. She sighed, wondering if she needed to march across the street and confront Deborah about her son, Ronnie. Sometimes she caught him in the alley at night on his skateboard with a sly expression on his face. Maybe it wasn't the son at all, but the no-good boyfriend. What was his name again? Leo. He had to be no good if he couldn't marry her like any decent man and instead preferred to shack up. He was probably on drugs.

As she returned to the house, she felt restless and needing of a task to complete. She had housework to do, of course, but she didn't feel like doing that just yet.

She drifted into her bedroom at the back of the house and peered into the large, red tote bag beside her bed, full of fabric she had had every intention to use to make Darcie and Doug a quilt with a double wedding ring pattern. She usually gave quilts to celebrate family weddings. But what with her mother dying last year, she hadn't gotten around to starting the quilt for this couple.

There was no need for it now, but she hated seeing good fabric going to waste.

She wandered aimlessly down the hall to the living room and switched on the lighting even though the drapes were wide open. Two years ago, her daughters had banded together to get the living room redone with track lights highlighting an Annie Lee print on the wall adjacent to the closet. It featured a church scene and a mother forcing a child to give up her gum. She had arranged the print above the black Ikea sideboard upon which the latest photos of her daughters sat.

Tamara, her oldest, was on the left, with Jean in the middle and the youngest, Sylvie, on the right. All had her ochre complexion, highlighted by her husband Walter's sassy smile. Only Jean still kept her hair long.

Jean had given her the Annie Lee print, laughingly saying that it reminded her of their relationship.

Smokey suddenly made his presence in the living room known by bellowing his feed-me-now song.

"I'm not thinking about you right now." It wasn't quite time for him to be fed anyway. She perched on the green and white floral print couch and pulled a photo album out of the coffee table drawer.

As she opened it, touching the carefully decorated plastic-covered pages (Sylvie's handiwork), the always present ache of missing Walt increased. The stubborn old man would have to have a fatal heart attack in February, the same year Mama died — 2008. at was certainly a year she wanted to forget. This year, they would've been married fifty years.

She flipped through the photos, pausing at one of her favorites. Every year they took a photo of the girls sitting on the couch in the same birth order spots. In this one, Tamara was thirteen and wearing a big afro. Jean, eleven, with her customary ponytail and long bangs, frowned in the middle, while seven-year-old, pigtailed Sylvie, on the right, smiled. It was only later that she realized why Jean frowned. Tamara had been picking on her. Lela shook her head. Tamara had been good at stealth picking — the whispered comment just when she thought her mama's back was turned.

An hour passed before she looked up from the photo album with the sudden realization that she had a task: begin the reading for Bible class.

She thought of putting a load of clothes in the washing machine first...and then the phone rang. She answered and found Barbara on the other end.

"Got a favor to ask. I'm on the angel tree committee — "

"You're on every committee at church, Barbara Wiggins."

"If I might finish, Lela Edwards." She was amused by the little jab. "We were wondering if you wouldn't mind making a small quilt for the ministry."

"You know I only do quilts for the family."

"I know, but — "

"And I'm not sure I can have one done by Christmas anyway, even though I have all that fabric I never used for Darcie's quilt." She sighed heavily. "I wish I had gotten to it. Guess it's too late now..."

Barbara was silent for several moments before saying, "Okay, what happened? I knew something was wrong the moment you got in the car."

No use beating around the bush. "It's Darcie. She's filed for divorce."

"Does that surprise you? They've been having problems all year from what you told me."

"They've only been married a little over a year. They could've worked those out."

"Didn't he cheat on her? Twice?"

"Do we have to talk about this?"

"Fine. So, are you gonna make a quilt? I felt a nudge by God that maybe you should make a quilt for us."

Lela suddenly felt manipulated by the mention of God. "Why would I give Darcie a wedding ring quilt now?" She thought out loud. Everyone else she'd given a quilt to was still married. Had she failed Darcie and jinxed the marriage by not giving her the quilt?

"I'm not talking about Darcie. Make a quilt for the angel tree ministry. There are a number of needy children — "

"I don't make quilts for children. Besides, all they want are those fancy comforters these days. They don't know how to appreciate a quilt."

"Does that have anything to do with your making it or not?"

"You should stop being so pushy, old woman."

"That's what friends are for, Le."

"I'll think about it. Talk to you later about this."

She hung up and returned to the bedroom to gather dirty clothes to wash. As she did though, her attention turned to the red tote bag of fabric. Smokey was perched on it.

"Cat, get off that fabric!"

But Smokey paid her no heed.

It was just as well. Making a quilt was the last thing she wanted to do right now.

Copyright © 2009 by TDJ Enterprises

Meet the Author

T.D. Jakes is the CEO of TDJ Enterprises, LLP; founder and senior pastor of The Potter’s House of Dallas, Inc.; and the New York Times bestselling author of Making Great Decisions (previously titled Before You Do), Reposition Yourself: Living Life Without Limits, and Let It Go: Forgive So You Can Be Forgiven, a New York Times, USA TODAY, and Publishers Weekly bestseller. He has won and been nominated for numerous awards, including Essence magazine’s President’s Award in 2007 for Reposition Yourself, a Grammy in 2004, and NAACP Image awards. He has been the host of national radio and television broadcasts, is the star of BET’s Mind, Body and Soul, and is regularly featured on the highly rated Dr. Phil Show and Oprah’s Lifeclass. He lives in Dallas with his wife and five children. Visit T.D. Jakes online at

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The Memory Quilt: A Christmas Story for Our Times 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
RenitaMarie More than 1 year ago
The author of this book paints a vivid picture of an elderly woman and without de-humanizing her, allows you to go through her trials as if they were your own. He also does a great job of reviewing the birth of Christ through the eyes and thoughts of Mary and comparing her story to that of the main character. This book had an awesome plot, animated characters, dramatic foreshadowing, and a surprise ending. I highly reccomend this book to anyone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story was believable. The Characters could have been real people that you know. The family life was typical of what most people experience. Had a religious theme but was not something that made you feel religion was being pushed on the reader.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Would also prefer a page count as last holiday "book" was 13 pages and saves clogging up space with samples . However publishers reviews covered most of it. Home alone again for the 25 as all very busy busy and roads bad which is the excuse i usually give to any inquires