I learned to sew on the old Singer sewing machine. The 1800's kind that looks like a piece of furniture and has a band wheel, a belt guide, a belt shifter and, uh-huh, a treadle.
My mother taught me; and over two decades ago she and I sewed my bridesmaids' dresses on that machine. I think she ended up doing most of the sewing. She was more skilled. Practiced. My mother sewed. Bell-bottom pants, costumes, curtains, and one year, the winter jackets my sister and I wore. They were hardy for Alaska, and girly for her girls.
She still sews. I have two sets of her quilted place mats, a watercolor stitch quilt I display from a decorative rod, and a large quilt she tagged "celebration quilt" that, when not folded at the foot of the bed, beckons from the rocking chair.
Sewing isn't really my thing. Patterns are too logical for the likes of me, and geometry wasn't my best subject. The maid-of-honor to her sister, the bride, knows such trivia about me, the mother of the bride. She hands me wedding decoration instructions scribbled in green pen ink on index card: "Burgundy Runner-10 Runners-8 ft. x 8 in. *needs to be hemmed, so cut a little extra for hemming room." A detailed visual with length, width, and hem allowance is drawn below the written instructions and I feel like I'm back in Geometry 101.
I gather measuring tape, sewing pins, and scissors. I drape the tape around my neck and hold the pins between my lips. I'm dressed for success. Now, I wonder, where is my sewing machine? I check the closet. I'ts not there. Is it upstairs? No. I check the laundry room and find it under a stack of folded clothes. Yeah, it's been awhile since I've noticed this machine. I practically live in the laundry room and I guess the machine's been there so long in plain view that I don't see it anymore.
It's dusty. I blow on it and the dust has been there so long it's nearly part of the machine.
I still think of this machine as new fangled. It's electric! It has levers and settings for zig-zag stitches, blind stitches, criss-cross stitches, and a button-hole setting. The last time I used this machine I left it out on the big table as if to say, "Look at my fancy sewing machine! I know how to use it!" My daughter-in-law saw it and, "Wow! Is this an antique? It's so solid!"
An antique? My sewing machine that my husband bought for me when I was a twenty-something young wife who was going to be the homemaker of homemakers and sew curtains, and mend shirts, and sew baby clothes, and extend my hand to the distaff, hold the spindle, reach out to the needy, and my household would be clothed in scarlet and I in fine linen and purple tapestry. I was going to be the Proverbs 31 homemaker with this modern machine. Well, daughter-in-law told me that today's machines would never last half the years that this old-timer has.
Treadle Sewing MachineI drag a folding chair from the closet and sit down at sewing machine in the laundry room. The fabric is burgundy flutter and lightest-weight sparkle. I don't need to heft the electric antique to the table that seats twelve to have room enough to sew this fabric. Even eight feet of it.
The antique and I, older than the antique, hem yards of wedding table runners in this laundry room measuring about as wide as an ironing board is long, and as long as a washer and dryer are wide.
Washing machine sloshes and shakes. Sewing machine whines. Bobbin fills with thread. I snip it and attempt to thread the needle. Surely, I think all hopeful, the eye of the needle has gotten narrower; or maybe the thread is thicker and frayed at the end. I snip the thread, again, and dampen it between my lips. I successfully thread the needle. Another laundry room miracle. and I look up that bit about fitting through the eye of a needle.
"Then Jesus said to His disciples, 'Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God'" (Matthew 19:23-24).
God speaks about miracles in my laundry room. And miracles happen in my laundry room.
Here is where clothing hangs damp because it's too feminine fragile for dryer tumble.
Here is where socks disappear and their mates wait in the single-sock box on the shelf till the wanderers return a little rumpled dusty. They are prodigal. I look for them every time I fold socks and sort through the single-sock box. Sometimes a prodigal returns to the laundry room, and sometimes folding socks gives me hope for a few prodigals I know.
They are sock-wearers.
Their socks have their feet in them; and if prodigal socks with no feet in them wander off and return, the surely socks with prodigal feet in them may return, too.
It's the hope I have for them.
I roll faith into sock balls.
Washing machine gasps and halts. Dryer is loaded and hums warmly. I hang delicates and hum, too, as I begin hemming. Sewing machine joins the hum and my foot taps out a rhythm at the sewing pedal all hem and hum, stop and re-pin, hem and hum, happy straight stitches, narrow hem, eight feet down, a short eight inch jaunt to the left, eight feet back, a jaunt to the right, and snip!
Maybe it's the snip, and the damp delicates hanging till dry, the straight stitches, and the narrow hem that stitch and hem long-running thoughts that hang delicate, too.
Can I just stitch them to the straight and narrow? I wish I could. I'd pin them down, lower the guiding foot, and show them the way stitch my stitch, eight feet by eight feet times ten 'cause better if their holed socks be darned than their worn souls.
Socks be darned; souls be saved!
One mother asks, "Pray for my daughter." Another asks, "War for my daughter." I am. I know them. They are the wearers of the socks and of the clothes that tumble rough in the tossing hum; and of the clothes hanging silent on the line, too.
I pin and hem feet of runners so that they will not ravel or fray as they would; and I pray, "Make straight paths for them. Hem them in."
I pray as I lower the guide foot to the fabric, and press the pedal down, "Keep them from unraveling. Change them from the shape they're in, into the shape You created them to be." I stitch an eight foot prayer. "Transform them. Save them." Threaded needle sprints right off the bobbin. "Snip the fray from them, that they may slip through the eye of a needle;" I re-thread the bobbin and slip the freshly snipped thread through the needle eye.
The One who knows as much about cloth as He knows about clay, answers my prayers; "I hemmed the world with water and light before it wore anything."
I know what He means by that, because I read it this morning. "The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters" (Genesis 1:2).
"The earth was water!" I exclaimed at bedside as the sun peered into the window. "It had to be!" I continued, "because water is without form!"
I'd never thought about this before. I guess it's obvious, but it was revelation to me as the sun stretched out and morning yawned across the bed I knelt at.
"Then God said, 'Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters'" (Genesis 1:6); and what, exactly, is firmament? I looked it up and found the beautiful.
Firmament means, "the vault of the sky."
The vault of the sky. It's marvelous poetry. "Your Spirit hovered over the face of the waters before there was a vault of the sky;" I marvel again.
I'm in large awe on this folding chair in my little laundry room.
Something about cloth edges all thready frayed, and straight stitches, and narrow hems; the socks and the clothes, the drying and the prayers for prodigals beneath the vault of the sky which is hemmed by formless water above and below it. Something spiritual here.
"Spirit of God," the electric sewing machine pauses, "bring the prodigals home. Save them."
"Do you know how all these clothes dry?" His answers puzzle me sometimes.
I never really thought about how they dry. They just do. "Uhm," my brilliant beginning, "by heat and dripping and, uh, hanging?"
"I divide waters," He prompts.
He's making me curious. I've said it before, and it's still true; God meets me in my laundry room. He chose the meeting place when rolling my husband's socks was thrilling and when I learned how to starch a shirt.
I google, "How do clothes dry?"
Clothes on Clothesline
I want that for my mostly water self-flesh. "Evaporate me! Break the bonds on my flesh that keep my spirit from flying!" And why not pray so? Well, honestly, I can think of a reason not to. I might as well ask God to toss me in the dryer, or hang me out to dry, because that's how water evaporates away from cloth.
I pray, "Evaporate me" because I want to fit through the eye of a needle and that's not going to happen if my flesh is full and bound to itself and to this world that offers wells for every thirst the flesh can have.
I used to be bound to myself, and to suitcases of sin, freight boxes of fear, cardboard boxes of cares, and packs of pride that I hauled with me from well to well because living like that is thirsty work. But one day Jesus met me at a well and He didn't draw water up for me. Instead, He began telling me about a new way to live. He told me to walk away from sin, fear, cares, and pride.
I did. And I am. And guess what? I don't get as thirsty for the waters this world offers when I'm not bound to it as water to waters.
Flesh enlarged by natural water from worldly wells will not fit through the eye of a needle, I think to myself over the humming laundry room. I snip another thread.
Thing is, the Day is coming when I'm going to want nothing more than to fit through the eye of a needle. I'm going to want to be evaporated, in a spiritually molecular way, and unbound. So I'll tumble dry, hang dry, and become unbound in the process.
Evaporate, and be transformed. Transfer my form, is how I hear transformed.
I pray that, too; "Transfer my form to fit through the eye of a needle. Hem me as straight runner for the narrow way. Stitch me to the way."
Maybe when I stand at His door I'll be bone dry.
Maybe I'll be little threaded with holes in my socks.
Maybe I'll be needing some freshening up. Yeah, I will.
And Heaven's the best place I know for that.
written by: Carolyn-Elizabeth Roehrig