Monthly Archives: February 2022

Knitting Lessons

My first knitting project when I was about ten years old was a hat for my older sister’s baby. Mamma had helped me learn to knit and purl and follow simple directions. I had knitted little patches for practice but that hat was my first real piece. Even with Mamma’s careful help I kept acquiring too many stitches by splitting them or I purled when I was supposed to knit or dropped stitches. Mamma patiently helped me redeem each mistake as much as possible. Bu that hat was crooked, uneven, and really ugly. Mamma praised my work, though, and made me feel good about it. We mailed the hat along with Mamma’s beautifully knitted baby blanket to Pat in West Virginia. By the time we saw her and the baby months later, the hat was way too small. I don’t know whether baby Lorna ever wore it! But that was the beginning for me of a lifelong love of knitting.

You may not be a knitter. You may grow orchids or bake cakes or take beautiful pictures. You may be a quilter. But to me, knitting is great therapy, a joy, a fulfillment. I say if you’re anxious, start knitting. If you’re disappointed, out of sorts, start knitting. I have particularly found it helpful to pick up a knitting project when I got stalled in writing a chapter, an article, or a poem. The rhythm of stitching untangles the frustration in my brain. This diversion helps for thinking through other problems as well. But knitting, like other hobbies, skills, and sports, can teach us valuable life lessons too. Here are a few knitting lessons I’ve recognized.

Every single stitch is so important. The number you cast on your needles, along with the size of your needles, weight of your yarn, and number of rows knitted, establishes the size of your finished project. Just one or two less or more stitches does make a difference. If you purl one stitch when you should have knitted it or make a cable twist one stitch off the pattern or–heaven help us!–drop a stitch or split a stitch, your piece will be greatly affected. The effects can range from a pattern looking ugly, like my infant hat, to a hole in your piece or an unraveling that is nonredeemable.

Lesson to learn: As every stitch counts, so does every conversation, every day, every smile, every choice.

When teaching someone to knit, something I stress is a willingness to make mistakes. Be ready to take a few rows out and knit them over correctly. Don’t give up because you realize you have more or less stitches than you’re supposed to have. Depending on the pattern, you may be able to knit two stitches together, pick up a stitch, or turn a purl into a knit stitch. Sometimes you simply need to start over. My sister, Jackie, has always amazed me with her fortitude in starting over on a blanket half finished because her pattern had gone whacky. She will unravel hundreds of rows in order to start over and make them perfect.

Lesson to learn: Don’t give up when you make a life mistake. Like a baseball player who misses a strategic ground ball, shake it off and try again. Mother Theresa said something like “Those who make no mistakes do nothing.”

As in all skills, it is imperative that you follow directions. As in following a recipe, you need to look though the directions so you’ll know what to expect. There are some very complicated patterns which require strict concentration; others you can almost knit in the dark if you know the directions. How do you know what to do? Most knitting pattern books have a table of knitting terms, abbreviations, and how-to’s in the front of the book. There are online instructions for knitting procedures, such as making cable stitches, how to knit seed stitch, how to increase or decrease and many more.

Lesson to learn: We have a Book, the Bible, to show us how to deal with life day by day. When we don’t follow it, our patterns become all askew.

I become quite frustrated when my yarn is miserably snarled. I’ve learned I must tease the yarn out of knots gently and patiently. If I jerk and try to force the threads to spin smoothly out of the skein or off the ball, I can damage it until the only solution is to cut the bad tangles out.

Lesson to learn: When a problem shows up in family life or on the job, or you’re stalled in traffic, or bombarded with multiple tasks, take a deep breath and tease the tangle out. Do not despair! Stay calm, say a prayer, and count to fifty or a hundred before you panic.

Whatever your skill, knitting or not, you can enjoy giving a gift that may be treasured and bring much pleasure while at the same time you keep the lessons learned! Sometimes your gift may be returned for repairs. Like one of the dolls I made as Christmas gifts. Charli’s doll she named Mildred looked very appealing to the family dog. Luna was proceeding to tear one arm off when Charli rescued her. So today we performed surgical repairs on Mildred. It was my pleasure to instruct Charli in the mending.

My four sisters and I are all knitters. We have knitted for each others’ babies as well as our own children and grandchildren. Now we’re knitting for great grandchildren, nephews and nieces. Suzanne is in a knitting club. All those ladies make prayer shawls for cancer patients and others. Pat could knit very fast without even looking, even knitted in class as a college student! She loved to knit sweaters for needy children in cold places. Ginger strove for perfection in creating beautiful sweaters. Jackie is talented in making sweaters with intricate colorful designs, like birds in flight. To all of us, visiting a yarn shop is almost as fun as Christmas morning. When one of us is having health issues or some other hard patch, the question from sisters is “Are you able to knit?” If the answer is affirmative, we know all is well.

The Great Creator planted within us a desire to create. Let us enjoy what we can do with our hands–and learn our lessons too!

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Your Very Own Name

Of all the fun days the year I taught nursery school, Valentine’s Day was the very best. The children were as excited over exchanging little cheap valentine cards as lovely ladies are over a dozen red roses. Maybe that’s a slight exaggeration but they really went into spasms over those tiny cards with their names on them. We decorated shoeboxes, as I remember, so each child had their own mailbox with their name on it. Each one dropped a card in every one of the boxes so they all got wonderful sweet mail. It was an exercise in recognizing each others’ names. But, mainly, it was fun!

Of course we had special cookies that day too. But the mail was the best. My own son was one of my students so I had the pleasure of seeing him open his cards at home and giggle at the cartoon characters all asking in some way or other “Will you be my valentine?” Naturally, there were a few he treasured more than others, not because of the funny messages but because of who they were from. The names were very important.

Some of the first words we teach ESL students are “What is your name?” followed by the answer “My name is ______.” Everyone likes to hear their own name pronounced correctly unless, of course, they’re being reprimanded. One’s name is a valuable possession. In the movie “Redeeming Love” (playing now at Georgia’s oldest theater, The Zebulon in Cairo) the heroine, a victim of sex abuse, keeps her real name a secret always using her alias, Angel. When she reveals her name finally to her redeeming husband she explains “My name was all I could keep as my very own.”

These days our mailboxes are full of pieces from political candidates, crazy catalogs, and windowed envelopes disclosing bills. Our names are on them but what jumps out at us in the stack of mail is any personal letters or cards, our names written in the handwriting of a friend or family member. There aren’t many of those now. We communicate by e-mail, by text, or by phone. But there was a time when letters in the box were our main link to those far away.

At Young Harris College in early sixties many of us walked after dinner to the tiny post office, located just inside the campus, the very edge of where we were allowed to go without signing out. There was excitement and some confusion as we jostled to see in our very own post office box. What a joy it was to me to see the slant of a letter in my box! I could hardly wait to fumble through my code and pull out my letter with my name written in my mother’s beautiful handwriting. I was only sixty miles from home but she wrote to me regularly.

The summer before my husband and I married in 1965 I spent ten weeks as a summer worker at a mission in Louisiana’s bayous. Charles worked two jobs in Atlanta, one for the CDC, the other as kennel help for a veterinarian on weekends. When we parted in June Charles said he might write me a line or two. How exciting it was when, twice a week, I discovered an envelope with my name amongst my supervising missionary’s mail. She greatly enjoyed seeing my pleasure in receiving those letters.

It still is a treat to find personal mail. Valentine’s Day is a good time to send mail to some who might not otherwise see their name on an envelope. It’s a good time to let dear ones know you’re thinking about them, maybe drop a little humor into their mailbox. And it’s a good time to remind folks that, above all, God loves them.

God knows everybody’s name! He knows your name!

For God so loved the world (say your name in place of world) that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever (say your name in place of whoever) believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 (NIV)

Fear not, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name and you are mine. Isaiah 43:1 (ESV)


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Comic Strip Comfort

Charles is an excellent comic strip reader. He makes sound effects and gesticulates, pulls faces and mimics voices as he reads to me while I knit. Now that Thomasville Times comes by mail, often there are two papers on the same day, then a dearth of comics for several days. So it’s feast or famine when it comes to comics. We have our favorites. Family Circus, Zits, and Born Loser are at the top of the list, although who couldn’t pick Beetle Bailey or Blondie? Sometimes a line he reads is so profound I tuck it in my brain to mull over. Like this one from Family Circus.

Two children are at the bottom of a snowy hill where the little girl has taken a spill off the sled. She’s bawling crocodile tears. Her brother says “No need to cry. Mama can’t hear you this far away.”

It struck me at the time Charles read and described this scenario that often we, too, suffer a downfall of some kind when there’s no one near to hear our cries. We might as well listen to the voice of reason and just hush because no one is listening.

But this was my next thought. We are never so far away that God can’t hear us. In the middle of the night when worries take over, on a bleak forsaken trail, at “the end of our rope,” God is there. When we face a “horrible, no good, very bad day,” God is there. When life throws us a curve and the skies are all gray, God is only a prayer away.

As the psalmist wrote in Psalm 139:9-10, If I take the wings of morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.

In the words of Corrie ten Boom, “There is no pit so deep that God is not there.”

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