Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Learning to Purl...



When I was in the first grade, our Brownie troop learned the basics of knitting. I can still remember the color of my knitting needles (metallic red) and the color of my yarn (pink). I think I got as far as knitting a 3x5 rectangle, but I never learned how to cast off or how to purl. When I was pregnant with my son, I thought it would be fun to try to progress my skills...so, I bought about 8 skeins of some beautiful, multi-colored yarn in autumn hues and the longest pair of knitting needles I could find. My intention was a throw blanket for our couch and my theory was the longer the needles, the less rectangles I would have to knit. (Definitely still a novice!) Well, my son is going on 7 and I'm pretty sure the throw blanket will barely cover up his stuffed frog. :-) Ah, the best of intentions. My desire to learn how to knit never went away. Over the summer, my oldest daughter, Chelsea, asked me to teach her how to knit. Everything went well until she completed her first project and wanted me to show her how to get it OFF her knitting needles. Oops. So, I went online to look for instructions...and got bit by the knitting bug - again!

Back to the craft store I went, to buy more supplies. This time, I actually had the knowledge to purchase the right size of knitting needles to match the yarn I chose (no wonder I struggled so much before!). I also purchased a couple of books with lots of photos to help fill in where my Brownie leader left off so many years ago. I'm thrilled to say that I have since learned a thing or two about knitting and a whole lot more about parenting. I've found that God teaches me best through my every day experiences.

In Psalm 139, a Psalmist wrote, "You knit me together in my mother's womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous--how well I know it." As I have been teaching myself to knit, stitch by stitch, pattern by pattern, these verses keep coming to my mind. A knit stitch in and of itself is so basic, so simple, and yet when I look at hand knit socks, hats, sweaters, blankets, and toys, they look anything but simple and basic. Once you progress from a basic knitted scarf, things can become incredibly complex. As I knit scarf after scarf, I felt the Lord speak to me about my journey through parenting.
When Chelsea arrived into my heart and life, I was most definitely a "Novice Mom". Sure, I had down the basics, but I had a LOT to learn. Thankfully, God is gracious and has patiently taught me over the years. My parenting skills during the first few years were definitely limited to a simple "knit stitch rectangle, still on the needles." When Liam blessed our lives, God made it clear that it was time to learn how to cast off completed projects in order to make room for more. He added new textures and colors into our lives. I began to learn how to form more consistent knit stitches and how to introduce new yarn into the project. When God wove Sara into our lives, He decided to turn things upside down and stretch my parenting "skills" even further...ah, the dreaded purl stitch. Again, it can seem so simple, but boy did it have my brain (and yarn!) in knots. Basically, it's the complete opposite of a knit stitch. Sounds easy, right? Perhaps - unless you have developed the routine of consistent knit stitches for years. Parenting a Chinese daughter who has endured countless losses and trauma requires what we lovingly call "upside down parenting". All of the wonderful skills and tools I used with my first two children are no longer valid. The good news is that parenting has yet to become dull or boring in the Ivey household! Just as I long to progress from a beginning knitter, God longs to grow and nurture me into the woman, wife and mom He created me to be...and that requires lots of stretching and opportunities to learn (and make mistakes).

When God knits our children together while they are growing inside of us, we begin "as one". When a baby is born, he/she actually believes that they are in fact one with their mother. Over time, they must learn that they are in fact their own person and begin the process of gaining their independence. When a child was knit together in another mother's womb and God choosing to bring them into another family, they will grieve the loss of their birth mother and feel as if the "other half" of themselves is missing. It is in fact a life changing loss and trauma. The adoptive mother is a separate person and over time, the child and mother must learn to "become one". There is a grafting that must take place. Sometimes God allows the grafting to be fairly smooth and painless...other times He allows the process to take time and great effort. For whatever reasons, God has allowed Sara's grafting process to be the latter. It has been a painstaking process for all of us, but it has definitely been worth every ounce of effort, prayer, and tear along the way. With Sara, God has taught me how to purl, how to parent upside down. Instead of time-outs, we use time-ins. Instead of encouraging Sara to become independent, we are teaching her how to become more and more dependent upon us. In the regular world this style of parenting can seem counterproductive, and yet, in Sara's heart it is exactly what she needs to learn how to love, trust, heal and grow.
Just as Chelsea and Liam taught me how to knit over time, Sara has taught me how to purl. The great mystery is that God has taught me how to take both of those skills and blend them into one. I've learned how to create a beautiful scarf using multiple colors and alternating between knit and purl stitches. Sometimes I make mistakes. Sometimes I stop being prayerful and focused and I mix up my "stitching". Sometimes I "drop a stitch". Many times I get excited that I've finally figured out a pattern and begin to get prideful, only to find that I need to unravel several rows of knitting and begin again. God has taught me much about grace through both my knitting and parenting. When I recognize that my project is a jumbled mess, He helps me to back up, recognize the error, undo it and try again. When I start knitting (or parenting) again, I am reminded to rely on His strength rather than my own.

Each of my children remain unique in their own ways. I have successfully knitted two scarves for Chelsea. She loves them both. While we both have unique tastes in colors and styles, I know what she likes and able able to bless her with a gift that she loves. Liam, however, has very particular tastes and sensitivities. I have knitted five different scarves for him, none of which have passed his careful inspection...too itchy, too puffy, too flat, too many stripes, not enough stripes. He can be very direct with his feedback, but most of the time, he's absolutely correct with his opinion. My boy knows exactly what he wants, I just haven't been able to find the exact yarn to meet his criteria. We've made countless trips to the yarn store and I've spent a fair amount of time searching online stores as well.
I'm currently working on a ribbed scarf made with soft yarn in a deep red, with a few stripes of white on the ends. I love it. Chelsea loves it. Liam is yet to be convinced that this is THE one. Only time, and a whole lot of stitches, will tell. :-) Just tonight he innocently asked, "Is my scarf done yet?" Deep breath, "No honey, not yet..." I may be worn out, but I won't give up. Each new project I've tried has taught me something new. My efforts may feel in vain, but I know that the journey is bringing about new skills. Time spent practicing is never wasted. My heart's desire is to figure out what will please my son, what will meet his unique needs, and bless him with a gift that is perfect for him. It hasn't been easy. It won't be easy; but my middle child is worth every stitch, every scarf and ever skein of yarn I have worked with and then decided to set aside for a later project.

One of the things I love the most about knitting is that I am able to see the end in sight. It's satisfying to put my time and focus into something that can actually be completed in time. As a stay-at-home wife and Mom who homeschools, the majority of my "projects" never get completed. Laundry, dishes, and lessons go on and on and on. It can feel frustrating to be forever on the hamster wheel of household chores...even the efforts of parenting can take a lifetime to finally see the results of our efforts. Knitting, on the other hand, can be incredibly satisfying...especially when it is accompanied by lessons taught directly by the Master Knitter Himself. I feel forever grateful for His grace, His love and His patience. For today, in His strength, I am LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!


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