Sunday, September 30, 2007

Precious pearls

While reading the paper this morning I came across an interesting book review about a new book, Watercolored Pearls, written by a local author, Stacy Hawkins Adams. The storyline seemed interesting enough, but what really resonated with me was the explanation of how the book got it's title.

According to the review, the three lead women characters are each given a gift of pearls by an older friend, who explains that a grain of sand or other irritant invades an oyster, which in turn coats the irritant with a substance (nacra) which eventually hardens and protects the oyster from the irritant. "This is a metaphor for female lives, she explains, in which painful challenges make women stronger and more beautiful."
That passage reminded of the dozens of women I've made prayer shawls for and the countless others I've met through this ministry. As with natural pearls, these beautiful women represent different colors, ages, backgrounds, and professions. Yet they all share a common thread. In one way or another, each have suffered and survived trauma of one type or another at the hands of a stranger, friend, family member or loved one. As horrific as their pain may have been, what matters at the end of the day is the miraculous ways that these women have gone on with their lives in spite of their pasts.
Like precious pearls, our suffering has made us stronger.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Giving the best

Every now and then a post really warms my heart. Although I'm always happy to know that knitters and crocheters are sharing their gifts with others, I'm sometimes suprised and disappointed that people sometimes give away their leftovers or their "mistakes" and consider it charitable knitting. Of course this issue isn't unique to crafters, I've heard stories about people donating used underwear and I knew of an attorney who donated a business suit to Goodwill after it came back from the tailor, who said that the worn crotch seam couldn't be replaced. An attorney! True story!

Because people even think about donating items to people less fortunate, I have to give credit for the thought that counts. But, in a recent post, Adminnie at Lime and Violet reminds that charity knitting deserves our best efforts too.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Art of Gifting

When it comes to giving gifts, we've become spoiled. Actually, we've become lazy. How often do we wait until the last minute to purchase birthday, anniversary or even Christmas gifts, only to rush out and get a gift card? How often do the gifts we give depend on what's on sale or what happens to be featured in a special store display or in the latest catalog or web page? I'll be the first to admit that it can be extremely difficult to give a gift to someone that we don't know well. But what's our excuse when it comes to family members and/or close friends? My guess is that we opt for the easy way out when it comes to gift giving simply because it's easy. We simply don't want to take the time or go to the trouble of thinking hard enough and long enough about that special person to pick a gift that is truly special.

Another excuse that I often hear, and that I've used myself, is that it's too expensive. Somewhere along the way we've been duped into believing that a good gift is an expensive gift. Of course money can buy some really cool stuff, but in my opinion, that's not what "gift-giving" is about.

One of the most heartwarmingly beautiful wedding bands I've ever seen is one that was made by a soldier for his wife out of a silver nickel. Although I can't imagine how painstaking the task must have been, he described the process of hitting the nickel with a spoon over and over again to shape it into a band. That's how he spent long lonely days onboard a Navy ship while separated from his girlfriend. He was probably in his 70's when he showed me the ring. He'd given it to her when they were in their 20's.

I love to knit. When I was married, my husband made a pair of knitting needles for me out of wooden dowels. He carved, shaped and sanded them by hand. He stained them and then added jade caps on the ends. We are no longer together, and I've donated or re-gifted many of the expensive things he gave me. But those simple knitting needles, that he made with love (when he still loved me) I chose to keep.

I think Ralph Waldo Emerson got it right in an essay entitled "Gifts" in 1844.

"The only gift is a portion of thyself... Therefore the poet brings his poem; the shepherd, his lamb; the farmer, corn; the miner, a gem; the sailor, coral and shells; the painter, his picture; the girl, a handkerchief of her own sewing. This is right and pleasing, for it restores society in so far to the primary basis, when a man's biography is conveyed in his gift... But it is a cold, lifeless business when you go to the shops to buy me something, which does not represent your life and talent, but a goldsmith's."

My dear friend Susan must understand what Mr. Emerson was talking about, because recently she sent me a gift that I will cherish for the rest of my life. Susan is a talented, thoughtful and sensitive blogger. She's also an accomplished and successful writer, having published and sold many books. She's written before about how she loves to write long-hand and has written about the tools of her trade. She knows that I love to write too and has been very supportive of my writing goals.

Susan sent me the most beautiful pen I've ever seen. It's a Levenger pen, which is awesome, and the fact that it's orange, which is one of my favorite colors, makes it even nicer. But the best thing of all is not that Susan went out and bought me an expensive ink pen, because she didn't. What's incredible to me is that this is one of Susan's favorite pens, one that she's written thousands of words with. It has been a part of her world for a long time... and she gave it to me. Somehow she knew that I'd understand the significance, the eloquence and the "perfectness" of her gift.

Susan and I met through our blogs in early spring. We post on each other's blogs and e-mail privately off-line almost daily and talk by phone at least once a week. For some unexplicable reason, although our friendship is still relatively new and we live on opposite sides of the country, I feel like we've known each other forever. And now, I have a very special piece of her world here in mine and I am truly touched. Today I want to publicly thank Susan for her thoughtfulness and I thank God for Susan's friendship.

Monday, September 24, 2007

A new face for this blog

OK. This time I'm really back. Summer is over and it's time to get back to business. It's been a long break from the ministry from me, but God continues to work with me and through me in other ways. Over the coming weeks, I'll share some of the insights I've been given over the past several months and share with you some of what I've been up to.

To be honest, I haven't been knitting as much in the past few months as I had been. After knitting literally dozens of prayer shawls, pink scarves and baby hats last year, I think I burned myself out. I didn't pick up my knitting needles for months, and I'm surprised to admit that I really didn't miss it.

But then, I re-read the manuscript of my book, The Joys of Soulful Knitting, which is about to be published at last (more on this soon). I was reminded of why I engage in the practice of Soulful Knitting and how important it is to me, on so many levels. I'm going through a difficult situation personally, and there is a special person that I feel the need to knit for, so I've undertaken a truly "soul full" knitting project that I try to devote some quality time to each evening. I'll post a picture when I'm done.

As far as the future of this blog goes, it's been on my heart for some time now to use this space to highlight some of the many wonderful charitable projects that are bringing knitters (and crocheters) from around the world together to generously donate their time and talents to brighten the lives of others. I'd also like to share some stories of Soulful Knitters in action. So stay tuned, I hope you'll enjoy the new additions that are coming.

Of course, if you know of projects and/or stories of Soulful Knitters, please let me know. I'd love to spread the word of their work.

Happy Knitting!