Of Linen and Grace
Sewing is one of my escapes.
I lock myself in my little room, turn on the machine, and wait for the machine foot to lurch to the side, indicating that it’s ready to go.
I start a lot of projects, and anyone who knows me will tell you that I finish about 1/10th of them. I don’t know. I guess they’re just better when they stay in my mind and the needle hasn’t pierced them poorly yet.
So they pile up and stare at me, taunting me with my own inadequacy.
Scraps lie all around the floor-some from an old baby dress I got halfway through and others from a quilt I have determined to finish before Christmas. They blend together in a hazy stack of discarded odds and ends, and I realize it’s been far too long since I cleaned the floor.
Ellie walks in and sees my hands grabbing anxiously at the colors and she looks concerned.
You aren’t throwing those away, are you? She asks.
Yeah, babe. They’re just the leftovers. She winces at my response.
Well, can I just keep them then? She asks. I nod, feeling a familiar sense of guilt run through my body.
It’s just been one of those days where my failures are shouting louder than my successes, and I’m convinced I’ve let them down. I don’t pray over them every night the way I should. I get distracted when I should be focused on conversation. I anger easily and form my own opinions before letting them speak their minds. I am quick to hush them and slow to spill grace.
I am the mom who leaves scraps instead of what should have been, and it’s eating me alive.
I see her scrambling and tears come to my eyes. I don’t even know how to verbalize it to her, because it is so profound a realization that all I can do is watch, my arms clinging to my elbows as I blink away my sadness.
What have I done?
That’s from a dress I started for you, Ellie. I manage.
She looks up at me and sees that I’m red-faced and broken hearted, and she comes to me with the fabric in her hand.
Mommy, I don’t need to take them… She starts. But I shake my head side-to-side. No, I assure her. They are yours. But you should be wearing it and not scraping from the carpet, I mumble. I explain that I’m just thinking and it satisfies her enough to go back to the gathering.
We do this, you know. We have great plans, grand ideas of mothering and care-taking and preparing a child for life, and at the end of many days we just feel like we’ve left it in pieces. What’s here for them to take is not near enough, we say. And we cry because we wish we had done it better.
We wish our fingers always zipped and buttoned the completed gown instead of staring at the remainders of our dreams for them.
It stays with me, this image. And in the middle of the night, for many nights to come, I will awake with her in my thoughts. She is kneeling, desperate, hungry for more than my gift to her. And I cry more than I remember crying in years.
It will be better, I tell her.
But she doesn’t know what I mean by that. She nods so I will wipe my eyes and make her feel like I’m okay, but she doesn’t understand my brokenness or my choppy words as I try to make right what she doesn’t realize is wrong.
I’m gone this weekend, I tell her. But I will be home.
I will always come home to you, Ellie.
It’s just that I have to do my job and it’s what the Lord has for me, and I want to be obedient and good and…does she hear me?
She is nodding and smiling and happy and I don’t know why because it’s all a mess, but I have no choice but to leave it be for now. I pack, I pray, and I drive away from the house and family I love so much, and I leave them the pieces again.
I feel the Lord’s peace as I go, though. And it doesn’t make sense to me but in a way I know He is saying, “Leave it to Me, love.” And so I do.
Two days pass and I come home to a clean house and a candle burning and I realize all the gaps that have been filled in my absence. The kids are joyful, eager to see me but not destroyed by the distance.
I give hugs and little airport gifts and we laugh and tickle and hope together for a few minutes and then I go to take a hot shower and wash the fear away again.
I stop cold in front of my sewing room.
The door is cracked and the light is on, so I push it open and I see a child-sized chair piled high with scraps.
They’ve been organized by color and size, and I realize there is more than I knew there was.
It’s enough to make something, I think.
And the tears come again, because I realize that in all the things I thought were failures, my love gave them something to take with them even if I never got it exactly right.
She tells me her plans for them, and I know it will be a more spectacular piece than anything I could have hemmed and ironed.
I’m giving her the pieces she needs-exactly the pieces she needs-to make her life an offering to the Lord.
She didn’t need the dress.
She needed the mother who gave her enough to sew something beautiful of her own.
What I thought was trash-what I thought was the remnant of my own mistakes-has become the fiber of her creation, and I stand in awe already of the way she has begun to join them together.
And so my prayer has changed.
I don’t spend more time worrying about what I don’t give them than I do praising Him for what He allows me to give them.
I am not their God, I am their mother.
And they don’t need homemade clothes as much as they need to know how to sew life.
We give them more than we realize we do, and every time we step in obedience, we hand them more and more to string together in His name. They know I’m afraid of flying, afraid of speaking in public, and afraid of failing those around me. But they see the doorknob turn and they know that I’m stitching as well.
It’s more than we realize, this obedience.
It’s more than we realize, these slivers of linen and grace.
And God-willing, they will grow to love the needle as I do, and they will smile one day as their own children gather what’s left at their feet.
It is exquisite, this pieced-together faith.
And thanks be to the God of grace, I am finding it is more than enough.