Confession time. Since the stay-at-home order I’ve been cross stitching like a mad man. I’m not sure exactly how many mad men actually cross stitch, but you get the idea. It’s a little weird.
I’ve read about so many folks taking care of their families in such admirable, practical ways — canning, baking, sewing, hunting, vegetable gardening, teaching little ones at home. Inspiring! I’ve chosen a path that benefits no one. Except it’s probably kept me from losing what’s left of my marbles so there’s that. I suppose there’s an aesthetic benefit if you admire that sort of thing. And did you know there’s a vast network of stitchers in the deep realms of social media? We are not alone.
I’ve been a stitcher for more than 30 years but have put it down and tucked it away for long, long periods of time when life’s demands were different. Just since I’ve had it back out and have been operating my one-woman stitching department on a near round-the-clock basis the last couple months, I’m remembering what I love (and hate) about it. And what it teaches me.
It’s possible that many of you have never touched embroidery floss or can even pronounce it. It’s okay. You’re still a legitimate human. I don’t know your stuff either. I am far from expert about it myself. Except for one aspect . . . it tangles easily and if mismanaged can drive you to an early grave from frustration if you let it. It takes a bit of finesse and experience to get the feel of what’s about to cause you some trouble and land you in a tangled up mess, necessitating either drastic action with scissors, walking away for a period of time, or complete abandonment. Been there. Done all that.
It helped enormously when I ceased to panic. Calmed down. No more roaring, “Woe is me!” What sometimes looks like an impenetrable knot is not necessarily a knot. It’s often and most usually just a twist caused by the natural motion of stitching and if handled delicately and with patience, will straighten out and continue performing flawlessly — until the next, you know … not knot … but twist.
I’m impatient. And don’t necessarily routinely panic but do have a tendency to react larger than what is called for. In stitching and in life. Ha! Bob calls it “spicy” which I appreciate because it’s probably mostly “annoying.” Entanglements are not my specialty and more often than not (see what I did there?) I plead for Bob to untangle my necklaces, shoelaces, garden hoses, and life. But this quarantine has changed that. I’m all alone with my floss. (Not the dance — don’t even go there.) And I’ve become more patient. I recognize when things are just in a twist and need some gentle coaxing, some time to pass, a little needling. And while I sit stitching under my work lamp I’ve been thinking . . .
. . . of so many others who have gone before and their day-to-day lives, what they filled their time with, what took their attention, what demanded their minutes. And boy, do I have it easy. I’ve had time to read books, articles, watch documentaries and view the news (sifting through what’s actually news and what’s just manipulation, but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). I sit at my little work table taking in others’ lives on a TV screen or from my phone, all the while unwrapping or untangling another twist or knot of my stitching floss. And I ponder . . .
mostly about the last dozen or so years. Probably obsessively.
And pray for perspective.
And pray against making too much of it.
This is not hard. A Syrian refugee camp is hard.
Caring for a spouse or parent with Alzheimer’s is hard.
Existing on a reservation and winning the battle against the downward spiral of illiteracy and alcoholism (and now rampant COVID) is hard.
Physical and emotional abuse from a parent or spouse is hard.
Watching a beloved child die slowly from disease is hard.
Homelessness is hard.
The jungles of Vietnam
The desert of Iraq
All hard. “Hard” doesn’t even scratch the surface.
And then I am humbly silent and sit in what I’ve perceived as hard. Reality comes back around to put me in my place. Maybe what we’ve got here is a twist. A scene to be dealt with through quietness and calm. Waiting. No gigantic reaction needed.
A knot needs scissors. A twist needs time.
Two of my four adult children have separated themselves from me and along with one of them went two cherished grandchildren. Just like that and they were gone. It’s been a lot of years for one situation and 18 months for the other. Enough tears have flowed around here to float a small fleet. I do not always have my act together. And yet . . .
. . . we must wait. And watch. And pray. And not be overcome.
Keeping perspective is a challenge (especially for those of us who are spicy/annoying in our big reactions). Maybe you can relate in your own life and situations. How thankful we are, though, for SO MUCH ELSE. And somewhere deep down inside this searing pain and strange grief, we strain to find the piece of it, the redeemable lesson in it, that calls us upward. EVER UPWARD.
The dark does not win.
The sadness does not overcome.
And we do not die over it.
The empathetic mother in me understands the separation just a little. I get it. They are standing up for something. I applaud strength. I know the workings of their brains, their hearts and their motivations. A piece of me went to them when they were born and is still there. I get it. But I also stand. I was here first. I’m the one who taught them to stand. And for Whom. Here’s where they can find me. Standing here. And loving them.
And so we must keep a certain picture of our place in the world of pain. It is vitally important, dear ones, to neither minimize nor overstate our twists and knots. If it’s a twist, keep it there and patiently work it and wait, praying and trusting. If it’s a knot, acknowledge the bigness and seek help from God, friends, trusted pastors and counselors. All is never lost. Even within a knotted mess. All is never lost. Never.
Two things and I’m done. (Anybody remember a pastor who used to say that, making us think he was drawing to a close when really we were in our seats another half hour?) I do. He was a good guy.
Here’s a song I love. If you’d like the concert version you can find it on YouTube. I want you to read the lyrics first though as you listen.
And here’s link to a sermon if you’ve got time and inclination. Try to find time. It’s from Tim Keller and it’s about dark times. He’s easy to listen to and helpful with knots.
Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice! Let Your ears be attentive To the voice of my supplications. If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, That You may be feared. I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait, And in His word do I hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning; Indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning. O Israel, hope in the Lord; For with the Lord there is lovingkindness, And with Him is abundant redemption.
Psalm 130:1-7 NASB