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Life Knits Life Together

As a young and newly married woman, with a mother-in-law who knitted beautifully, I decided that I wanted to add this art form to my list of interests in art and crafts.  I remember well the first, and until last year, my only attempt at knitting.

Thinking about that first knitting attempt, even after all these years, makes me laugh at my niavete!  I selected a pattern for a sweater that was not a beginner’s project, typical to the way that I undertake new things.  Then, I chose a fabulous buttery yellow mohair yarn, one that a beginner didn’t need to use!  A few brief lessons,  and I was deep into this sweater.  I knitted the back first, then the right front side, the left front side, the sleeves, and finally the bias binding that was to be attached to the front opening.  As I looked at all the finished pieces, I must admit my smugness.  Indeed, they looked good.

The next step was to send them to the cleaners to be blocked.  When the pieces were returned to me, I carefully put them together, certain that I would be wearing this new garment to dinner that evening.  Once the pieces were a real sweater, I eagerly put it on, stood before the mirror, and admired my handwork.  Well, that was until I turned to see what the back looked like.  Need I say, it was not good!

As those of you who do needlework know, whether it is knitting, embroidery or needlepoint, beginners tend to work either too tightly or too loosely.  The more one does those things, the better one gets, and the tension on the yarn or thread becomes more consistent.  What had happened to my beautiful sweater?  Since I had knitted the back first, the stitches were much more loose than the rest of it.  As a result, the back was very floaty and wavy.  Not the look was I after!  Even after all that effort, the sweater was never worn, and eventually found it’s way to some other place.  The experience was discouraging enough that I had no desire to take it all apart, unravel the back and reknit it!

The recent revival of knitting once again piqued my interest in knitting.  This time, however, I started as a beginner should start, working on simple scarves.  The first ones were of yarns that weren’t too hard to handle, though I quickly moved on to using novelty yarns and multiple yarns.  The lesson here was that I needed to start simple, and stay simple until the tension on the yarn had adjusted to where I would automatically and normally work. 

I made lots of scarves!  The purpose was not only to add a bit of the latest fashion craze to the wardrobes of our daughter and daughter-in-law as well as a few for myself, but to establish my tension so that the stitches would be even and neat.   After all the scarves were finished, and none of us needed another one(!), I decided that we needed a few simple hats, and so I was on to something new and different.  I had to learn a few new things to make a rectangle into a hat.  Now, I am knitting other things, and the learning process continues.

My first experience in knitting was that I plunged into something that I didn’t know about, and didn’t understand; the result was much less than desirable.  This time around, I took the time to learn, to practice, and then move ahead when I was accomplished sufficiently to produce something of value. 

Sometimes I think this is how I approach life.  I just plunge in, not really knowing how best to accomplish my goal.  I forge ahead, not really understanding the basics.  I race along, not taking the time to acquire whatever it is that I need to succeed.  And, what does it get me?  A life that is sometimes lacking.  A life that is sometimes unsatisfactory.  A life that can be unfulfilled.  And, much less than what God had planned for me.

 So, I wonder, what do I need to do?  Afterall, it is not my wish to continue along under the current modus operandi!  This is not what I want.  I remember that I have heard that if one does as one has always done, one gets what one has always gotten!  I know that I want to end up with knitted items that are wearable, even pretty.  And, so it is that I realize that I need to select simple projects, practice knitting and pearling until my stitches are neat and are the same size.  Then, and only then, should I take on a more complicated project.  Does life work that way, too?

As I muse about how knitting and life are similar, I think about my own spiritual journey.  I know where I am, and I know where I want to go.  What my ultimate goal is.  I know that I cannot just put my foot out and blindly step forward.  I must prepare myself for the journey.   I need my desire for a relationship with Christ.  I need trust, hope and faith in God.  And, His lantern to light my path.  God offers the gifts I need for my journey.  It is only when these gifts are tucked into my heart and soul that I can begin the journey.

Being a sojourner on God’s road requires a lot from me.  It’s not always smooth and easy travel.  But, in the end, it is worth all the learning, practicing, and so to speak, knitting of all the elements together.  On the road, one step leads to another, just as in knitting, one stitch leads to the next; and thus it goes until the finish.  In the knitting of a sweater, I have something to keep me warm on chilly days.  A garment that offers comfort.  At the end of my journey, God will fulfill His promise.  He will open His arms for a seeking sojourner.  A comfort beyond measure!

Father God, your pattern and your stitches are always perfect.  I pray for a willing heart to follow your design for me.  Amen.

I love antique and vintage quilts!  One of my favorite quilts is a wonderful patchwork quilt in reds and whites.  A special paternal aunt gave it to me years ago.  I remember her telling me that it was made as a wedding quilt by either my great grandmother for my grandmother, or by my great great grandmother for my great grandmother.  I wish I could remember!  Whatever the case, it is a family heirloom to me.

When I look at that quilt now, I see some patches that are threadbare while others seem almost new.  Some of the reds are more faded than others.  But, for the age of the quilt, and considering that it was really a used household item, it is in remarkable condition.  I assume some of the patches were fabrics left from making garments for the family, or from clothing which children outgrew.  Some patches could have been the good part of a damaged, irrepairable shirt or dress.  Some patches are most likely from those wonderful flour sacks which women would wash and save.  Likely some of the patches were fabrics traded between the women in the quilting circle.  Wherever the fabric came from, each piece has a story to tell.  How I wish I could hear those tales from generations past!

This treasured quilt is a connection to my family.  Though it is now old and worn, at one time it was new and as perfect as a quilt can be.  The quilt is completely made by hand and I look at those tiny even stitches and marvel at the expertise and patience that is sewn into what was a common, ordinary household item.  I wonder how many tears it has absorbed.  How many giggling children it kept warm during cold, windy nights.  How many times did it offer comfort?  Or, witness grief?  Or, mourning?  Even joy?  If this quilt could be a storyteller, I wonder, what would it say? 

During my childhood, my family traveled to visit relatives who lived on farms in another state which was a very long day’s drive from our house.  If we visited during the winter, almost all my aunts had quilting frames in their living rooms.  It was this time of the year when they were not occupied with gardening and other outside chores that they had time to pursue such domestic activity.  The quilting frames were wood, and late each fall, these frames were taken from storage, assembled and installed, ready for use to put together a quilt made according to the newest pattern.  Sometimes an old, much loved and favorite pattern was used.  The frame was attached to ropes and using a pully system on the ceiling, it could be raised when not in use.  I remember always being fascinated with these frames and the quilts that were being worked on.   

Using that memory for thinking about my quilt in the process of the patches being sewn together and the entire piece being quilted,  I am amused with the imagined chatter of the ladies sitting around the quilting frame.  I can see the women and hear their conservations.  According to journal entries of women who made quilts in the 1800’s and into the 1900’s, I think that I can identify these women, no matter where they lived or who they were.  Each was an individual with special and common interests, a different personality, and various talents.  I imagine that their conversations were much the same as in similar groups of women today – home, community, children, sewing, and cooking along with illnesses, births and deaths.  Some groups included Bible study in the morning followed with lunch and then quilting.  They almost always made quilts for any brides-to-be (naturally, a wedding ring quilt) in the community or a family in need before doing quilts for themselves.

 It seems that usually there were two women who led the group; frequently one was the local preacher’s spouse who was kind and thoughtful and the other was a real organizer, both with compassion for others.  Then, there was the woman who thought she knew it all and was never without the best advise; one that gossiped about everyone and everything; one that sat silently, stitching constantly (they say her husband was a drinker);  one that possessed a sharp edge and words and one that was sweeter than honey.  There was one who wore the finest and overdressed (the banker’s wife who always had the latest Godey’s as a fashion guide from Paris); one who wore a stylish ready-made dress (the mercantile owner’s wife), and one who wore a much repaired and worn plain garment (a lazy spouse in her house).  Then, there was the rancher’s wife in her practical, good calico and the undertaker’s spouse in the drab cotton.  And, always, there seemed to be an elderly widow, loved by everyone because of her wisdom and godly ways.

In every quilting circle, there was a wide range of talent and expertise.  Usually, there was one woman was the recognized expert stitcher.  There was almost always at least one who made big, sloppy uneven stitches.  The solution to that problem was that one of the best stitchers would discreetly restitch those tacky stitches!  There were those who had good color sense, and those that seemed to be color blind.  Some who had more artistic ability than others.  To solve those issues, those with more design talent would tactfully suggest patches that were needed.  However the quilt evolved, it was a masterpiece of cooperation between women with a common goal.

These women were all shapes and sizes, young and old and inbetween (except unmarried young women couldn’t participate since they might hear something too delicate for their maiden ears!), but, irregardless of who they were, they were all women who had common interests and concerns.  Women who found that the fellowship of quilting bees, or the quilting circle, provided a much needed and appreciated social respite from the routine of household duties.

No matter who participated in the quilting circle, in some fashion, ultimately they all worked together.  The result of using their talents was a special gift for another person or family in their community, or each of them in turn, had a new, and likely needed, quilt for their own home.  I believe that most of those women thought that by gifting the quilts they made, they were serving the Lord that many of them loved and depended on.  As I muse about those quilting circles of long ago, I think that’s the way God wants us to work together in His world, for His Kingdom.

Isn’t it wonderful, amazing, and beyond understanding that God puts us all together like a patchwork quilt?  Each piece of a quilt compliments the surrounding ones,  just as each of us, individually, compliment the others.   Just as women making a quilt, each piece being a piece of the whole, God created us and put us together to work with each other.  He added colors here and there, a patch of humility scattered about, a tad of humor tucked in just the right place, a wisp of compassion, a snippet of wisdom and a square of servanthood, and in the middle of it all, He stitched securely his special design for us, His children.  And, He stitched it all together with a backing and a border of love.

I am ever in awe of God’s creation and how he loves, protects and uses us.  Just as my ancestor’s beautiful quilt, our Lord covers us with warmth, love and care.  Forever! Simply amazing!

Father God, I want to be always covered with your love, mercy and grace.   I want to understand your beauty.  My desire is to do your will.  Amen.

Life Behind the Wheel

July 3, 1919.   This date will not be of significance to most who may read this.  This date was an entire generation before the beginning of my years in this world – it is the date of my father’s birth.  On that special day, into this world was born one of the most amazing men ever! 

 My father.  Well, let’s see…..how many adjectives in the dictionary might be used to describe an incredible, loving, kind, wise, and godly man?  I wonder, would all of those words even be adequate?  To say that I hold a tremendous amount of love and respect for my fabulous father would be an understatement!  How blessed I am to have had such a father.

Daddy filled the many roles of the traditional man of his times.  To Mama, he was a husband without compare.  A book could be written about their incredible marriage and their unwavering love.  To his children, he was the epitome of fatherhood.  To his other family members and friends, he was just as kind, thoughtful, loyal and loving.  He was funny and engaging.  Life with Daddy was an adventure.  I remember well his love of history, and I believe I inherited this appreciation of the past.  I have wonderful memories of looking at pastures that were sites of historical places and events!  

In an earlier post, I wrote about Mama and that it was hard to write just about Mama and not Daddy because I usually don’t think of one without thinking of the other.  Just as there are special memories in my heart of Mama, there are special memories tucked there of Daddy.  And, this post is about Daddy.

Most memories I have of Daddy are one way or another related to the family.  There were countless times that I knew I was his princess.  But, I also knew what was expected of me.  I have many times told my children that I probably stayed out of a lot of trouble because my parents had so much love for me, and trust in me, that I couldn’t bear the thought of disappointing them.  I recall, with some amusement now, that when Daddy sat at his desk and called me by my first and middle names I knew that I needed to sit in that chair beside the desk and be prepared to face something!   

Daddy loved cars.  I suppose that life long fasination had it’s roots in the fact that it was during his youth that the Model T’s and the Model A’s were common.  Whatever the reason, Daddy liked everything about automobiles.  All of my life, I heard stories about the wild escapades (which would be mere baby’s play in today’s world) about the Model T pickup being loaded with friends and flying over the rutted country roads of northeastern Arkansas.  About how the thing would get into a rut and then just fall on it’s side!  Everyone would hop off, right the vehicle, pile in and off they went!  I still laugh when I recall those tales of my Daddy’s youth.

Needless to say, Daddy loved to drive!  If you are of my generation, you will recall that in the 1950’s many city dwellers went for country rides; at the same time, many country folks went for city cruizes.  We lived in town, so naturally, we went to the country!  Daddy had grown up on a farm and he was always interested in seeing the condition of the local crops. 

Now that I am older, and hopefully, wiser, I realize the value of those Sunday afternoon drives, and the memories are treasured.  It was during those times that no one was concerned about work or school.  Existing problems didn’t become a part of the pleasant conversation.  Numerous life lessons were gently imparted during those hours.  Daddy would often regale us with his own memories.  We learned a lot about the grandparents that we usually saw only twice a year.  We learned about what life was like thirty years before we were born.  Learned a lot about family history, too.  Those times together were special.

And, then there were vacations!  Of course, they were driving trips.   Daddy drove.  Mama sang.  Brother and I anticipated arrival at our destination.   More memories related.  More family history revealed.  Many historical (and some not so historical!) sites were visited.  Time together spent in the car, traveling down some road somewhere – such happiness I have to remember.

I remember when I reached the age that Daddy thought I should learn to drive.  Realize that even in those days (as my children say), we did have driver’s ed in school.  But, Daddy wanted to teach me to drive first, then I could take the class!  So, where else but to the country we would go.  My driving lessons were in all kinds of weather, on all kinds of roads.  In traffic and on the highway.  And, what do I remember from those driving lessons?  Laughter!  Lots of laughter!  “Now, Sis, ……….” or “No, Sis, you gotta…….” or “Not too sharp!”  or even “Go a bit easier on the brake!”  And, probably most of all, Daddy’s ever ready hand near the steering wheel.

Daddy believed that even girls should know at least a few basics about a car.  Things like how to change a tire; check the water in the battery and the radiator; check the air in the tires and to know how much air should be in them; and to check the oil.  Daddy also thought that I should be attuned to the sounds the car would make, and what to check if it didn’t sound as it should.  To Daddy, driving the car was just the minor part of being behind the wheel!  A lot was involved in being in the driver’s seat.  His opinion was that knowing about the vehicle was paramount to one’s ability to drive.  One had to know what a car could and could not do, how the car was manufactured to perform.  How to drive on ice and snow, and in the rain.  How to steer if the car went into a skid.  How to control the car if a blow out happened (which actually happened and I did exactly what Daddy said!).

I remember, too, when I had that first accident!  It honestly was not my fault – a drunk driver ran into Daddy’s car.  Thankfully, there were no injuries.  However, I thought I didn’t want to drive again, wouldn’t drive again.  What did Daddy do?  Put me in the car, in the driver’s seat and we went for a drive!  He would not let the fear of that accident lead me to believe that I should quit driving!

And, isn’t that just the way God works?  He teaches me what I should know.  He stays beside me through many lessons, taking the wheel when I begin to veer off the road, teaches me how to stay in my lane, how and when to turn one way or the other, and even sits with me when he tells me the rules of the road.  He is there to put me back into the driver’s seat when things happen and fear and doubt rule my thinking.  And, he never gives up on my ability to travel my road….His road.  And, too, His Hand is always, always near the steering wheel!

Thank you, Father God, for your hand on my life.  I ask you to guide me on the right road and to the right lane.  Amen.

Remember when your parents would relate one of their pearls of widsom, and you would just roll your eyes, with a slight nod and appear to agree?  Oh, yes!  At that time, I never, ever thought that I would be saying, much less thinking,  some of those same thoughts!  Admittedly, I find it simply amazing that as the years have slipped past,  I hear some of those very same words in my own voice!  And, of course, my children roll their eyes, too!

A favorite phrase of caution from my beloved mom was, “Sis, keep your skirts clear!”  What in the world would that mean, I wondered, thinking to myself that this is past the middle of the 20th century, Mom!  I remember a time when she explained that it was a way of saying keep away from things that lead to or cause trouble.

Over the years, I have wondered where that phrase might have originated.  I have a special interest in the frontier history of the western United States, and for pleasure reading, I enjoy historical fiction books authored by Christian writers and set during the latter half of the 1800’s. Some time ago, as I read one of these books, it occured to me that this phrase might have been popular during that time on the western front.  Quite possibly, it could have originated much earlier as women wore long dresses as far back as we know and into the 1900’s.  Those warning words could have been just as appropriate during colonial American times, too.

But, back to the American West.   Women, either crossing the country in covered wagons to relocate in the West or settled in the dug-outs and log cabins prevelant at that time, wore long, ankle length dresses with full, gathered skirts.  Camp fire and hearth cooking was ‘woman’s work’ and I can well imagine the danger all that fabric presented around the open fire!  So, keeping your skirts clear was to keep your skirt away from the fire and the possibility of your dress being quickly consumed with flames!  Makes sense to me.

I still hear that caution of Mom’s voice.  I now have a different way of thinking about what that phrase means to me.  And, it is this: Don’t dance too close to the fire!  And, who might my dancing partner be?  The one who appears from nowhere, and everywhere, wearing a masquerade of gracefulness and pleasing manners.  The one who glides, guides and moves me toward those flames?  The one with the smooth steps, the smoother voice of invitation?  Satan! 

So, I ask myself, when do I dance too close to the fire?  When am I tempted to swish and sway to the tune of the evil notes of disharmony?   The notes that lead down a path to instant gratification, but end in bitter disappointment?  The notes that mislead and manipulate?  The notes that confuse and destroy?   Do I even want to think about it?  Yet, if I am not aware, if I am not ready to resist, I likely find myself in the middle of the dance before I even realize what has happened.  If I do not develop skills and equip myself to stand strong when Satan’s song becomes too tempting, I surely will succumb to his bidding. 

It would be easy to make a list of the ways that one can be lured into the devil’s dance.  In the world of today (and, really, when considering the basics, is it much different than any other time in history?), I find it all too easy to slip into the generally accepted modus operandi of the day.  What do I do that places me too close to the fire?  When I fudge just a tiny little bit between the truth and the words that will just keep me out of trouble or that will answer without really answering?   When words can be misleading?  When I put other things before God?  When I go along with the crowd knowing it is wrong?  When I ignore the needs of others?  Or, when I do not focus on my own relationship with Christ?  At least, all of that and more.

Some say human nature causes us to be disobedient.  Some say Satan is orchestrating the misbehavior.  Some claim that other people cause the temptation.  Still, some point fingers at the one who suffers.  Perhaps it is one reason, several reasons, or all of them combined.  But, whatever the cause, the bottom line has Satan’s signature!

I know without a doubt how easily I can loose my focus on my spiritual journey.  It is the heart of God that I want.  Eternity with God is my final destination.  I have realized that to go where I want to go, and to have what I want to have, I really must “keep my skirts clear.”  Thanks, Mom!

Thank you, Father God, for shielding me from the flames of Satan.  And, for walking with me and guiding me as I seek your heart.  Amen.

I have realized that much of my writing has centered on the struggling sojourner that I am.  I am in such complete awe of what God can and does do, that I find it easy to weave stories of my life’s events and issues with experiences of rescue and redemption.  With such gratitude for the loving and merciful God that I know, reflection of that nature seems effortless.  Yet, it is important that I realize the joys of walking the path of my Savior Lord during those times when life is free of chaos and crises.       

This writing and musing, in terms of my own spiritual journey, has prompted me to see new perspectives on life.  I now know, in spite of all that I may do, only those things done for God will last.  And, as sure as the dawn of a new day, I believe that makes Jesus smile!

The realities of the world are a never-ending recital of all manner of tragedy and evil.  Hurt and disappointment abound.  At the same time, life can be joyful, rewarding and fulfilling.  There is hope.  There is peace.  There is God whose blessings are infinite.  I can be open to receive the gifts God offers.  I have come to know that in receiving, I can be giving and in giving, I can be receiving. 

I have heard it said that if “you want to hear God laugh, just tell Him your plans!”  True!  I also think if you really want to hear Him laugh, or see Him smile, just visit with Him when life is great!  In those times, it is just as necessary to walk with Him as when life is not it’s best.  These times should be filled with gratitude and praise for my Father God! 

And, isn’t it wonderful to walk with the Giver, to just enjoy being with Him and not having to be concerned with a problem?    To better understand the One from whom these blessings flow?  I see myself falling into step with Jesus, and as I turn my head to look into His face, I see and feel the love and joy He carries deep inside.  And, I see that smile.  Such joy!

All too often, when life is great, or at least great by the standards of the world, I go about living and enjoying this time of ease.  I am too busy maximizing the utopic experience of my achievements, abundance and successes to take time for God.  I am negligent about giving Him credit for these gifts and blessings. 

I remind myself that the gifts are more for the Giver than for the gifted.

“Count your blessings one by one, count them and see what God has done….”  So at the bidding of this well beloved song, I begin my list:  God, family and friends who love me, an incredible childhood, talents God gave me, food, shelter and all things needed for physical sustenance and well-being, opportunities to travel and see more of God’s great and wonderful world, education and the ability to learn, an interest in others and in helping others, and an appreciation of God’s beautiful creation.  As I praise Him for these blessings, I think Jesus does smile at my acknowledgement.  And, I pray that I  use them with wisdom and for His Glory.

Of course, this list is but a brief summary of the gifts and blessings which God has bestowed upon me.  In reality, if individually named, the list could be almost endless!  The length of the list is not of major importance, rather it is enough to know and acknowledge with thankfulness that God’s gifts and blessings are as endless as His love for me.

I want so much to enjoy Jesus, not just use him.  Yet, I know and understand that through using Jesus, I learn to enjoy him.

I think that when I see Jesus smile, even laugh with me, it is times when I experience wise and good use of those gifts and talents from the Father.  It’s also when I feel joy and celebrate one of life’s events.  The birth of a healthy grandchild.  The view of the beautiful land around the ranch house.  The joy of seeing our son being a wonderful father to his boys and a loving husband to his wife.  The amazing  inner beauty of our daughter.  The happiness of a family holiday.  The gratitude of one more birthday!  Yes, even that!  And, the joy is just as much in the ‘little things’ as in those bigger things of life. 

The list above is of earthly concerns, I know.  I believe that in celebrating those with joy and a heart of gratitude, I realize and understand so much more of what God wants for me.  By loving and caring and giving, I am serving the Lord.  I know also the other things that God wants me to do – extend a hand to those in need, be a kind, caring and thoughtful neighbor, serve Him with a glad heart. These are the times that Jesus smiles.  The times that the gleam in His eyes sparkles and glows. 

Then, saving the best for the last, to see the biggest smile that Jesus could possibly smile, I think it’s when I invest myself in my relationship with him.  I seek Him and find Him and accept Him.  I build my relationship with Him, then nurture and maintain it.  I accept His gift of forgiveness, redemption, and salvation.  I travel in tandem with Him though He is the leader and I am the follower.  Just a sojourner on God’s Road.  I think Jesus is at His happiest at those times.

 That smile of Jesus – it means the world to me!

Thank you, Lord, for your blessings and your smile which show your love and encourage me to walk with you.  Amen.

During the late 1960’s and into the 70’s, crafting was in vogue and everyone was making something!  Since my childhood years, I had done needlework along with other kinds of arts and crafts which I enjoyed.  Making hand built pottery pieces sounded interesting so I signed up for a class with several friends.

 While other ceramics students were allowed to buy clay in 25 pound blocks and ready for use, our teacher thought it was more pure and real for us to take the clay she had dug from a farm in East Texas, add the grog to temper it and hand process it!  So, in a big tub, I put clay, added pulverized pottery sherds, sand, and crushed shells along with water and began the process of getting it ready to be shaped.  It was a labor intensive job!  By hand, I pounded and blended and rolled the addatives into the clay base until it was totally incorporated into one big hunk.  This process was repeated until it had just the right feel to it.  Then, it was roll and knead, roll and knead, roll and knead!  Finally, arms ready to separate from the body, the clay was ready to be formed into a masterpiece!

I had thought about the pot that I wanted to make and had visualized the shape.  This project was to be coil piece – long ropes were rolled until they were consistant in circumference and smooth with air bubbles worked out of the clay.  I made a few of the ropes, cut small slashes down the length on one side of each one and brushed a little water on the cut places.  Then I began coiling a rope, starting at the center and working outward with the cut and moistened side being placed close to the coil as a circle was formed for the bottom of the pot.  When the base was the size that I wanted, I carefully pinched the coils together and smoothed the surface a little.  Next, the walls of the pot were constructed, laying coil on top of coil, pinching the coils together as the pot began to take shape.  Finally, after rolling many more ropes and repeating the coiling process many more times, the pot was the right height.  I wanted the outside to have some texture,  so I used my fingers to bring a little clay from one coil down to the coil below.  The piece was finished and left to dry.  

Our teacher fired our pieces and we returned the following week, anxious to see the results of our efforts.  There were some surprises!   Where was the pot that I had so carefully planned and shaped?   The one that had been perfectly round and an even height all the way around?  The one that had coils that were almost exactly the same size? 

It was there – it had just changed!  With great disappointment, I inspected a pot that had sagging sides and was no longer perfectly rounded!  What in the world had happened, I wondered?  It was at that point that I learned about the characteristics of clay and working with clay.  Things such as clay shrinks as it dries.  Firing a clay piece shrinks it further.  The clay itself does not have a consistant level of moisture throughout the entire piece, so it shrinks unevenly.  The process of finishing the piece (firing it) once I had done my part (shaping) had changed what I had imagined would be my first masterpiece into a rather sad looking pot!

What would I do with it?  I wanted it perfect; it wasn’t.  I was disappointed.  It didn’t look like I wanted it to look.  Throw it away?  Break it and crush it to use as grog for another try at pottery making?  Take it home and put in the garage closet to be forgotten? 

When each of us had examined our own piece, we looked at the products of the others.  My friends and the teacher, seeing my disappointment, began telling me what they did like about my pot, and gradually, I began to see it in another way.  While it did not look as I wanted, it had acquired it’s own rustic and interesting beauty.  And, it was still useful.

Well, the pot did go home with me.  And, after filling it with blooming plants, it spent that summer, and many more, in the center of a table on the patio.  It’s vintage now!  And, you know what?  I love that old thing!

If I think about it, isn’t this just what God did with me?  He took some dirt, mixed in a lot of himself and formed it until He had me just the way He planned.  He created me with joy and looked forward to seeing me live the wonderful life He gave me to  enjoy – and, enjoy it abundantly!   He lovingly and tenderly placed me in the world with the freedom to become the best that I can be. 

Inside that kiln (the world) and during the process of firing (life), I change.  Sometimes it’s for good.  Sometimes it’s not.  As I travel along my path, I gather dirt that even further changes me.  God collects the dirt and kneads it back into my being which makes me stronger and better.  When God looks at me and sees that I am not what He created me to be, He accepts me, but He loves me too much to let me stay that way.    God takes my hand and teaches me lessons I need to know as He walks with me. 

I am blessed to have been shaped and to be continually maintained with His hands.  I am blessed to have received gifts and talents from His hands.  I am blessed to be able to serve Him, using what He has given me.  Blessed beyond measure!

Thank you, Father God, for creating, shaping and molding me.  Thank you for your blessings.  Guide me in using these gifts for Your Glory.

  

The small group of women in my group study class decided to dress in costume for the gathering that would be on Halloween.  I pulled my trench coat from the closet, dug the black crows from the box of decorations in the attic, found a pair of oversized sunglasses, and purchased the longest, wildest blonde wig you can imagine.  I ‘ratted and teased’ that wig until it was a total mess, attached some black crows on it and in it. Halloween morning came, and I donned this costume.  Hello, Tippy Hedren!

Off to class I drove.  It was probably a good thing that I could take back roads from our ranch to the leader’s home! Upon arrival, I gathered my Bible, notebook, thermos mug of coffee, and purse and proceeded to walk up the rock walkway to the front porch.  Just before I got to the first step of the porch, I stumbled on a very rough rock.  The next thing I know, I am stretched flat, from head to toe, face down to the ground!

Embarrasing!!  My first thought, as I raised my head to look around, was “Did anybody see me?”  At that moment, the hostess came outside, helped me collect myself and all my things.  We adjusted the wig and rearranged the black crows on my shoulders that were upside down!

Afterward, as I drove back to the ranch, I had to laugh at myself as I imagined how funny I must have looked!  Then, a passing vision of my shadow on the ground as I lay, sprawled flat.  I saw the shadow of the crazy wig, flying ever which way.  Even saw the shadow of some of the black crows!  The sun made the shadowed images seem even more bizarre and distorted.  I laughed again at the image of my shadow.

 As I continued to drive,  it occured to me that I could only have seen my shadow if I had a light above me.  It was automatic to think about the Light being the Lord God.   I recalled that I had moved one leg, then the other, then one arm at a time to see if I might have broken a limb.  Fortunately, I had not.  At that point, I sent grateful words winging heavenward.  I am certain that though I had taken a very hard fall, the good Lord was there to insure a softer landing.

I have had  instances when God revealed His presence to me during the down times of life, so much so that He seemed to be physically beside me.  This was one of those times.  And, of the times this has happened, this was one of the least tramatic and serious.  Just a silly fall. Yet, there He was.

“I will be with you always…..” was His promise.  And, He is THE Promisekeeper!  Over the years, I have heard others promise something, but never deliver.  I have heard my own words of spoken promises!  And, sadly, I wonder………why do I neglect to fulfill those promises?  At the time the promise is made my intentions are sincere.  Yet, for whatever reasons, sometimes a promise I made goes unfulfilled.

My shadow follows me every step I take.  Even when I don’t see it, it’s there.  I’ve wondered,  if I could have a conservation with my shadow, what would my shadow say?  Would this darkened image of myself be honest and critical?  Manipulate it’s response to skirt the issue at hand?  Smile and keep it’s thoughts secret?  Hide from me without any response?  What would my shadow say?   Do I don’t really want to know?

Maybe it’s not important at all that my shadow say anthing!  It’s the Light that should concern me.  The Light makes the shadow.  This Light is a beacon in a dark world. I must have the Light to see where I am going.  It is this light that shows me the path that leads to finding what I seek – my loving and merciful Father.

Thank you, Father God, for holding the lantern that lights my way to you!