Upshur Cooperative Parish House and Crosslines Inc.
Monday, April 04, 2016

Articles

Experiences While Knitting a Blanket

If you have read my articles over the past four years you will know that I am a knitter.  I have been knitting off and on for most of my life, since the winter I turned five years old.  When I first started knitting it was mostly to pass the time, since I was sick quite often that winter with repeated ear infections.  It was a way to keep me both occupied and somewhat quiet, so that I could rest and heal.  With each passing year, I appreciate, more and more that my mother had the wisdom and the patience to teach me to knit, especially since she didn't like it at all.

As the years of my life pass, I recognize that for me, knitting has become a prayer practice.  While not everything that I knit are prayer shawls or other prayer items, specifically, my knitting practice, no matter what it might be, is a time when the repetitions of knitting row after row become meditative and lead me to breathe in and knit into the presence of God.  The practice slows me down, calms me down and brings me peace.

Sometimes, I start something as a practice of prayer for a particular person.  That was the case last winter when I began to knit a blanket for a particular friend of my kids who somehow had lost his way in life and was having difficulty finding his way back.  This young man is brilliant, but through circumstances of his life he lost confidence in his abilities, in his way, in his God, in his friends, and slowly "disappeared" from school.  In the cold and dark days of last winter, God made clear to me that I needed to knit for this young man.

So, after thinking and a lot of sitting in silence with God, I decided to knit this young man a blanket.  Since the young man had always been interested in history, I decided to pattern the blanket after the old Hudson Bay blankets of the 1700's.  I also decided to knit the blanket in cotton instead of wool.  So on a cold snowy day toward the end of winter I started on the blanket.

While I knew that the blanket would take a fair amount of time, I decided that if I knitted on it everyday as a prayer practice I would be able to finish it before the summer began.  After all, I thought he needed some sort of tangible evidence that someone cared about him and was praying for him and the sooner I got it done the better.

The first experience I had while knitting the blanket is that knitting with cotton yarn hurt my hands.  While the cotton is a lovely weight and fabric when knitted, the process of knitting with cotton can be rough on the hands.  I found that at first I could not knit as long as I wanted and the discomfort of the yarn interrupted my flow of prayer while knitting.  I would knit for several days in a row and then set it aside for weeks at a time.

Finally, after months of knitting and setting aside, I picked up the knitting one day and began again.  Almost immediately, my hands experienced discomfort, but instead of putting the knitting away, I put it in my lap and just sat with it.  I prayed about the frustration that I was having with the blanket and in the midst of that quiet experience I thought about the frustrations this young man and those who love him the most--his family--might be having.

Through my own frustrations, God reminded me that the process of knitting this blanket was not about me, but about prayer for child of God.  So, I made a new commitment to praying and knitting and using the discomfort to remind me that my task is to pray for this young man and for the frustrations of his life.

Through the summer months I took the blanket everywhere--to Annual Conference, to the Parish House, to people I would go to visit, to Harpers' Ferry where my family camped, to many, many evenings outside in my swing.  I knitted on it everywhere I went.  I wanted to knit on it in the places where there is prayer and peace.

No matter where I went, when I began to knit on it, I would envision that the very cotton that grew in God's earth was absorbing the prayers of worshiping communities, the laughter and joy of good friends sharing time together, the sweet air of the late summer evenings, the first rays of sun on a brand new morning, the simple, sweet morning prayer times at the Parish House, the beautiful sounds of bird's songs, the sounds of gentle rain and powerful thunder, and countless moments of silence.

I sought out as many gifts of God as I could so that I might knit these simple, yet powerful gifts of God into the prayers of this blanket.  What I experience in this practice is how these beautiful, simple gifts of God can far outweigh the ugliness of this world.  I think that maybe we spend far more time concentrating on the ugliness of this world than we do concentrating on God's beautiful gifts in this world.  Where I used to spend so much time glued to news sources, I find myself spending more time appreciating the songs of the birds, the changing of the leaves of the dogwood trees, and so many countless gifts that God gives us to appreciate each day.

This past week I had the opportunity to spend five days in retreat.  Not only was it great for the continuing education that I need each year, more importantly, it was a powerful experience in healing for my weary being.  Of course, I took the blanket with me and during most of the times of solitude and quiet, I knitted on the blanket. One morning, as I rocked and knitted I decided to see just how long it took to knit a row.  I checked three times and the average amount of time it takes to knit a row on this blanket is 11 minutes.

When I measured the blanket and did the math it seems that I have just over 60 hours in this blanket so far.  That means that I have prayed over 60 hours for this young man.  In that moment of realization I thought about all the people in my life.  Do any of us have any one willing to pray for us for 60 hours?  If I had known how many hours that I would be required to spend in prayer for this young man would I have committed to praying that much?  Are we willing to commit to that many hours of prayer for any prayer?

We don't want it to take God that long to answer our prayers do we?  And yet, as I approach the end of knitting this blanket and thus my prayer time for this young man, I find myself not wanting to finish it, not wanting to complete my prayers.  In the midst of knitting this blanket I have experienced profound moments that really had nothing to do with this young man, but with my own prayer life.

One more thing that I learned is that God wanted it to take me a long time.  God wanted me praying for this young man for hours upon hours.  Maybe, sometimes, it takes God a long time to answer our prayers because God wants us to spend hours praying, placing the one we are praying for and ourselves in the presence of God over and over again.

I am nearing the end of this blanket.  It will be completed by the end of this month.  I am grateful for the opportunity to pray for this young man and for the changes in his life that I have seen over the last few months.  More importantly I am grateful for the experiences and lessons that have come to me as I have knitted.

God understands me and God understands knitting and how that practice speaks to me.  My favorite psalm, Psalm 139 speaks of God knitting:  "For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother's womb.  I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made."  (Psalm 139:13)  I look forward to more experiences and lessons learned while knitting.

Our prayerful knitting group will begin again on Wednesday, October 1 at 2 pm at the Parish House.  Everyone is welcome to come and join us.  If you do not knit, we will be glad to teach you.

To God alone be the glory!
 
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