God creates a beautiful tapestry from the scraps
of a broken life
By Stephanie Oxley
Like bright reflections of a wildflower garden, fabric pieces cover every surface of Carol Hazen’s art quilt studio in organized abandon. Her energy and passion for her craft enhance the display of finished creations.
Where a painter uses oils or watercolors, Carol uses fabric and traditional quilting techniques of piecing, appliqué and stitching to
create wall hangings. She readily admits that she gravitated to art quilting because “I can’t read directions,” she said with good-natured laughter, referring to the detailed patterns and instructions created by others.
Carol first learned basic techniques by watching television quilting shows and experimenting on her own. After a couple of years she took a class from a professional quilt artist and found this relatively new art form freed her own audacious creativity. Even as a novice she gained notice from more seasoned artists, winning awards in a number of fabric art competitions, and selling her work internationally.
Any artist will tell you the real work is done out of public sight and acclaim. Such is the case with God’s “workmanship” as Carol now sees God’s hand at work in her all along, creating his own unique design, vibrant in hue, passionate love for his creation highlighted by so many careful stitches.
Adopted at birth and placed within a dysfunctional family, Carol had no grounding in godly virtues. Abuse and emotional chaos, like fabric scraps on the studio floor, resulted in low self-esteem, academic difficulties and a severely distorted view of life and love, mere existence but without pattern.
“I grew up like so many people do, taking care of myself, thinking I had to figure it all out for myself. I felt like a failure pretty early on. I think there was this constant ‘if I could find my real mother she
would love me because you guys are doing it wrong and this is a mistake — I’m in the wrong place, in the wrong family — this isn’t right.’”
Carol experienced years of counseling and multiple recovery programs during her late teens and twenties. Her grades were so poor in high school she was in danger of not graduating. At long last, one highly innovative program created in her the ability to graduate clean and sober.
Even with a good support network (including her now husband), Carol was living life “by the seat of my pants. I didn’t have an education or a career or anything like that so I got a job working with people, which I seem to do naturally. I was just living on a
daily basis — nothing big.”
As she entered her third decade, Carol determined that she would find her birth mother, the one she felt sure would understand and love her. When an unlikely twist of events brought her birth records (supposed to be permanently sealed) into her possession,
she contacted an investigator who succeeded in the search, and God’s new work began to take shape.
Through the years, the birth mother’s faith had grown, prompting her to pray for her child — that she was well, and even more importantly, that someone in the little girl’s life would share the love of Jesus with her. Little could she have known that God would stitch those prayers into the larger design and bless this mother with being part of their answer.
Carol continued, “My desire to know her had always been so strong. Now, she shared her faith and that Jesus was her best friend. I remember one of the first questions I asked her, ‘OK so explain this Jesus dude to me because I don’t get it.’ I really believe God placed in me the desire to seek him and find him, but he used my birth mom who was my tangible desire.”
Although Carol had often felt a guiding force she could not name, nothing provided lasting relief for the shame and fear that continued to haunt her. Then, much as she had learned the basics of quilt art, she began watching television programs and seeking out Bible studies with women whose faith was “just incredibly encouraging” to her, helping guide those first tentative steps of a new lifestyle, at last compelling her to experiment with making
her relationship with Christ more than a mere copy of another’s.
Carol came to understand she first had to know God for who he is, “then who he is in my life.” Coming to this understanding brought Carol to the point of realizing that all those years of seeking were really God seeking her. “I figured I’d screwed up so bad, but he still reached out to me, he still continued to grab my heart.”
She now sees how God rearranged her brokenness, much as she uses design sketches and fabric pieces to work her way through each new idea, light against dark, vibrant against somber to develop the image of his design.
New joy replaced her negative self-image as she found an outlet for her many creative abilities: music and drama, Bible studies and group games — especially in ministries for the young people of her
church. She shared her testimony with youth and adults in her small mountain community, never shying away from her own frayed past, but also showing them how to find God’s unique design for their own lives in his Word.
As her natural exuberance turned to overcommitment, Carol became aware that her own dreaming and down time, husband and home were being neglected. With prayerful consideration, and in light of what she now saw as the design God wanted her life
to display, Carol has become more focused on her art quilt career, while continuing to mentor the youth at an area camp and their teen discipleship program.
No longer seeking the world’s affirmation, Carol concludes, “It’s not about being a well-known artist. To me it’s about passionately creating things that come out of me, passionately expressing what I love, passionately being the me that God created me to
be. I’ve learned to be able to express the God that I love!”
And just as those scraps of fabric surround her in her studio, waiting to be placed in a new quilt design, her prayers surround each individual with whom she is building a relationship — that they will become like beautiful quilts in the hands of our Creator
Stephanie Oxley is a retired educator, lifelong learner, reading
addict and practicing writer. She enjoys “phase three” of Isaiah 40:31, taking long walks in the Idaho countryside, gathering with her four-generation family on the ranch, and road-tripping in search of family histories. She studied with Christian Writers’ Guild and local workshops, ever praying that her stories will reflect HIS-story.