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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Socks Be Darned! Souls Be Saved! And Laundry Room Miracles

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 Machine
I 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 dirt bedded in fabric is stirred awake and swished away without a trace.

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.

Folded Socks

How, I wonder aloud, to stitch up the edgy? The ragged fray? The unraveling? I'm thinking about a few prodigals. 

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

Evaporation. "When a wet object dries," says google, "it is because the liquid water that is on the object evaporates to water vapor;" and again, "Drying consists of individual water molecules breaking free of their bonds to each other and to the object, and the flying out into the air"

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

Thursday, September 17, 2015

My Children's Book! Coming Soon...

So, I've been playing. Been writing a catchy, rhymey children's book. And illustrating it with my watercolor paintings so happily that I catch myself smiling while painting something like a mouse and a firefly nose-to-nose, or a caterpillar snoring in her cocoon.

I'm calling the book I Can See God's Love for Me!

Children's Book
I'll let y'all know when it becomes available!
Hoping to be published in a few weeks!
And THANK YOU, MY BEAUTIFUL READERS!  I don't know who most of you are, but I look
forward to meeting each of you in Heaven, if not sooner!
Look up and smile at the One who's smiling at you!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

When You're Swallowed Whole and Life Gets Kinda Organic

Organic lemonade. Powdered greens in a canister boasting "25 Billion Probiotics." The list of ingredients is three columns long from brim to base in small print and I can nearly see the canister flex with health as I pump my arm back and forth because I can't read the label. I wonder if this powder will strengthen my eyes that just don't flex well anymore. Me thinks not.

I scoop 25 billion probiotics into a glass of anything flavorful enough to disguise the taste of green powder concentrate and, "Where are my reading glasses, anyway?" I'm too indifferent to search for them and, Really? How can I drink 25 billion probiotics and be near and far-sighted?

Oh, I also talk to myself. All the time. It helps me think when I listen to what I have to say.

"I can't figure out," I say, "if I should wear glasses or contact lenses for distance, because if I wear contact lenses then I really need reading glasses and enough vim to search for them every time I have something to read. And that's like, all the time."

Well. I'm trying to read this ingredient label written for people who must take 25 billion pro-eyeotics, and this seventeen year old sun-bleached, sun-tanned daughter who's registered with the Red Cross, has about five medical certifications, and guards lives at the outdoor pool saunters into the kitchen where I'm deliberating with myself and a canister of probiotics. "But if I wear glasses," I shift my attention to the one who makes life-saving decisions in split seconds, "then I can still see! Sort of."

She quirks her head at me.

"If the letters aren't too small." I finish in a small voice.

She laughs and knows better than to suggest bi-focals. Not happening. Not yet.

I grab my car keys. "I'll be back soon! I'm going to Walmart to, uh, pick up the pair of glasses I ordered. They're ready."

I hold my head up high and walk to the door with more dignity than someone who talks to a canister of probiotics.

Green bell peppers. They're organic. I planted them in a fire pit that finally rusted through and can't hold fire but can be lined with garden tarp to hold soil and greens. Thing is, a worm has stripped them. I thought I caught it, but there must be more of them because on my way to the driveway I noticed shreds and shreds of bell pepper stalks, leaves, and peppers littering the soil. Three bell peppers are half eaten, the leaves are chewed ragged, and the worms insult gravely by what they leave behind right smack on the leaves where they bowl. Tiny dark pies of everything organic. They know what they're doing.

Worm Stripped

I'm certain I've heard God, the Holy Author of the Book for holy living on this organic orb say things like, "E-hem, dear? You're walking in hope, again."

I hear Him now, and for the ump-teenth time I open my instruction Book for holy living to Hebrews 11:1 because I need to be reminded what faith is, and what hope is, and how they go together to order my steps.

"Now faith is," I read again, "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."

I'm getting it, slowly. Getting it down to my toes where the walking happens. "Since faith is substance and evidence, and hope isn't, then it's obvious that I must walk by faith."

"Obviously," He agrees.

"So why, Lord," I ask a tad confounded because I'm logistically challenged, "do I keep getting it backward?"

"Because," He's going to give it to me straight, "the reality of My hope, not yours, is the base for faith."

I read the footnote to His definition of faith and learn that it is living, making decisions, basing what I do on who He is.

"Ah!" I'm getting it. "You are my hope!"

He tells me to walk by faith. I try. It's hard remember the steps because I'm prone to elevate my way over His way, and my wishes over Him. It sounds ridiculous to say it. But there it is. It's the confusion that happens when I get faith and hope confused.

When I plant green peppers, I expect green peppers on my cutting board. Smug worms invisible to eyes the likes of mine are not part of my plan.

They fit nowhere in what I hope for.

Yet, they are there just gnawing at my hopes and, may I just say there are worms that gnaw life ragged sometimes.

They chew through savings accounts.

They crunch up cars till the wheels fall off.

They munch on houses till there are too many repairs.

And they gnaw at the reasons I have to believe for the things that I hope for till faith sort of gets a little ragged.

But I recall a worm, and a plant, and a prophet who was too angry to see straight. I get it. God asked him to do what he'd rather die than do.

He refused.

He invited sailors to throw him overboard into the churning sea and maybe he kind of hoped he'd escape doing what God was flat out going to have him do, by drowning instead. But no.

He was swallowed by a whale. A dubious rescue that surely did nothing to change his mind about preferring death. Maybe he sort of hoped he'd die by digestion. But no.

He became whale vomit. And I wonder if he didn't clean up after that because maybe no one in Nineveh would listen to a man who looked insane and smelled of whale vomit. But no.

They listened.

God had His way.

The Ninevites Jonah despised had the audacity to repent.

"Lorrrrd!" I can hear Jonah bellow his stress, "This is why I ran away to Tarshish!" I picture dramatic hand gestures. "I knew that You are a merciful God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love," he must have spit the words out.

It's a strange way to magnify God, but maybe it shouldn't seem as foreign as it does. It's actually kind of humorous, I think. I wonder if God wanted to laugh at the absurdity? Except, He doesn't laugh when His children are loosing it and can't hear what they're saying because all they can hear is what they're feeling.

Tomatoe Worm

How does this strange magnification of God work?

It works only after years of filling the belly of my soul with everything God reveals to me of Himself.

Forget organics, and billions of probiotics for digestive health, and garden greens. The really good stuff is the likes of what came out of Jonah's mouth after he was wrapped in the kind of seaweed that's conveniently dried and packaged in a canister of probiotics, was marinated three days in digestive juices, and a worm shredded the leaves off the only comfort he'd had in a long time.

What if, rather than venting, "Where are You, God? Do You see? Do You care? And did I miss something? Are You trying to teach me something here?" frustrations, because life is screaming and time is flying off the handle and really big things are swallowing me whole and worms are stripping off what I depend on for comfort and, honestly, what's the point in wondering if God is trying to teach me something? He's God. There's always something I can learn from Him. Maybe I should wonder, rather, that I'm not more teachable.

Well, what if the huffy vent was "Ach, Lord! You are so frustratingly calm. So irritatingly at peace! You are the beginning and the end while I'm stuck somewhere in the belly of something big and scary but You, dag-nabbit, You are bigger!" That's the really good stuff.

I'm a mom; and sometimes we mom's just listen to our little "Jonahs." Then we say something really frustrating like, "Is it right for you to behave like this?"

Well, I blame it on God. He asked the question of His precious little Jonah first. And Jonah stomped off to sit and watch what would happen. Yeah, he was mad; but also curious.

What mom hasn't seen this before? A child fills with self righteousness because the enemy, the pest in pajamas on the other side of the room, is shown mercy after super bad behavior. There's a stomping out, a huffing and puffing, but chances are there's a peeking through the door hing just to see what happens now.

Jonah sat just east of Nineveh to see what would happen.

God comforted him. He arranged for a fast growing plant with large leaves to shade him. And Jonah was grateful. Until God arranged for the worm.

The worm ate the stalk for breakfast. Just mowed the plant down by dawn and the sun burned hornet hot, the wind scorched like a blowtorch and, yeah, Jonah was blurry mad. Couldn't see straight. "Just kill me now, Lord!"

"Is it right," God said, "for you to be angry because the plant died?"

"Yes!" Jonah retorted. "Angry enough to die!"

I wonder if the worm was still there chomping happily? I wonder if Jonah swept up a fistful of organic green shreds and held them out at arms length, "Just look at this, Lord!" And then if the Lord held His hand out at arms length toward Nineveh and said, "Just look at that, Jonah."

Thing is, seems Jonah knew God so well that even in his anger he couldn't help confess who God is. Maybe that's because it's true, "For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks" (Lk. 6:45).

May I know Him like that. If I'm going to be angry with God, or blame Him for whatever's happened or hasn't, may I know Him so well that I accuse Him correctly. May I accuse Him of nothing less than who He is?

I may, only if my heart is His, not mine. Only if my desires are blurry because my heart is a 20/20 focus trained on Him.

So Jonah didn't want what God wanted; and he was spitting mad when God fulfilled His hope for the Ninevites, even though he knew He would. He knew it, because he knew God. Seems to me that Jonah must have been filled with faith in God's character, because the truth of God's character just spewed out of Jonah's mouth and landed all over Him.

Jonah went kicking and screaming to Nineveh, and pouted and stomped about, but when all was said and done he had obtained a testimony by faith because he testified of what he knew was true about God.

I think about the champions of faith in Hebrews chapter eleven. They died in faith. I read this and think, to die faith full, less hopes, isn't hopeless. But to die hope full, less faith, is hopeless; because hope must rely on faith to keep going, and faith must be as faith is and must do as faith does.

I hear myself taking and I need God to help me figure out what I'm saying. "So, what about that?" I ask Him.

"Let's take yellow dog out back," He suggests.

Light on Web
We stand at patio edge and He sees me catch my breath the moment the sun explodes open on a single strand of spider silk.

"Did you see that?" He knows I did.

"Oh, yes." My answer is reverent. I remember a desperate morning years ago. "Show me what faith looks like, Lord!" I begged. He showed me. He revealed a single strand of silken faith by a stream of sun light.

I'm waiting for light to catch web again. "There!" Sun sprints the length. "Ha! Now look!" And when the likes of me delights to see a spider, it's a God thing. Yep.

She's not scary ugly, but amber gold because she's walking in the light. Sun light wraps her as a garment. She wears the light. She's transformed by the light. She ascends steady where light just ran ahead of her, as if to show her the way.

"This is what it looks like to base your actions on the reality of who I am," God whispers over my shoulder.

We watch this spider, clothed in the light which illuminates the web, and there's something just so simple and profound about this walk, this web, this light; and what it is to this spider. It's life to her. She's simply entrusting her life to a strand of web silk so fine that it's nearly invisible. But watch a spider walk on light and know that there's a strand of faith under her feet.

"That's how I want to walk." I mean that I want my life-walk to testify just as confidently to God's character as this spider testifies to the strength and presence of the web.

I want to be transformed by light all amber gold.

I want to act on what God has revealed about Himself rather than on what isn't yet seen.

I think about this, and how many times have I confused faith and hope?

How many times have I stepped out in hope rather than in faith?

How many times have I based all kinds of decisions on a mirage that may or may not be true, rather than on the always true evidence of what is?

Well, on this faithless but hopeful orb it's easy for me to get confused.

I find myself doing ridiculous things, like watering green bell pepper plants that are worm stripped, rather than gearing up to go worm hunting. What can I say? I'm an optimistic hopeful; confused wearer of contact lenses, reading glasses, and distance glasses who is learning to walk by faith and seeing, yeah, seeing something that would be invisible except for the light which runs and dances and plays all over it.

I'm adjusting my eyes to see the character of God dance as the light of sun on this narrow strand I'm sticking to.

Sometimes it's as messy as Jonah was. He did some ridiculous things, too. But for all the mess, may my worst complaint be that God is a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love! Jonah got some stuff backwards, but not this.

Seems to me, Jonah the prophet really got it. I think he got the point, once he settled down and let God have the last word.

I wonder, did he excuse himself after God put things in perspective? "Uh, I'll be back soon. I'm going to the corner Walmart here on the east side of Nineveh to pick up the glasses You ordered for my soul."

May I become so filled with the reality of God's character,

that no matter what else,

even if a whale swallows me whole and spits me out,

and life gets pretty organic,

may I be heard saying something like,

"Dag-nabbit! You are just so good!"

written by: Carolyn-Elizabeth Roehrig