If you want to go through this life blessed, there’s one thing I’m convinced you must do: love more. The more love you give, the more you get.

See these patriotic barn quilts? They were created by my friends Jim and Shirley, alternate parents to me. These two people have mastered the art of loving people. I’ve only known them for a few years, but they have made me 100 percent confident that I am part of their family. I’d sooner cut off one of my arms than hurt or disappoint either of them. Here’s the funny thing: there are dozens of people like me who believe they belong to this couple.

Despite their share of life’s heartbreaks, the two of them stay focused on building other people up. “You’re my girl. Don’t forget it,” Shirley said after I thanked her for encouraging me during a time of doubt and uncertainty. We first bonded while teaching a Sunday school class for toddlers, which is yet another great reason to be involved with teaching and a church family. You might just make the friend of a lifetime over such joint endeavors.

I spent one morning this week visiting them at their 125-year-old home, a former dairy farm with knotty old trees, a barn, and an adorable lilac chicken coop that serves as a storage space and sometimes-studio for Shirley’s art. When I drove up, Jim was on his tractor ready to mow. Shirley was sitting on the deck engrossed in a craft. Their home is part art gallery, part nature center and they delight in sharing it with others. Shirley and I walked yard, spotting barn swallows, beaver dams, and delicate nests built by jenny wrens.

Jim can build practically anything with his hands and Shirley has never met an art or craft she didn’t love. Together they make and sell amazing barn quilts, which you can see at Wooden Stitches Barn Quilts. I’m commissioning two custom quilts, one for my front porch and one for my back deck. They sent me home with two to try in my space plus a bag full of vintage sewing patterns. I’ve been poring over the patterns this week, trying to decide which project to start.

When I think of these friends, I realize how fortunate I am to love and be loved by such people. They are a living example of Philippians 4:8– Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.

The patriotic colors in these quilts remind me of a great vintage jacket in my closet from the 1980s when shoulder pads were fashionable. Ah! Shoulder pads, the dream of every pear-shaped girl! Why oh why have they gone out of fashion? This jacket’s horizontal stripes offer an extra boost for balancing my uneven figure.

From now until July 4, we’re inviting you to show us your patriotic flair by posting your red, white and blue ensembles at this link:

Life is short. Wear the good stuff.