Monday, January 26, 2015

Life is Busy But Things Can Wait

Life is busy. It seems like there is simply never enough time to do everything I really want to do... which is crazy to me because most of my life I managed a full-time career, while juggling the responsibilities of also being a full-time wife and mother.  As I look back now, I wonder how I managed to do anything else at all. Scaling back to only 3 days a week, it seems like I should have plenty of time for extras, yet I find myself week after week, rushing to fit in all the seeds I've planted on my mind and heart that week.

New Year's Eve, I cast-on the first row for a cardigan I am making for my son. The yarn is a gorgeous 100% mink in the richest sea-water blue, and it knits into the softest imaginable fabric. The strand is a very fine gauge and the color is dark, so the pattern knits up slowly (yet wonderfully) as I knit and purl fine rows of even stockinette stitch on narrow US5 needles.

And the timing of the project seems lengthy as I make my way slowly from one perfect row to the next, clicking in repetition to the anticipated goal of 16 1/4" from my cast-on edge before I receive my next  instruction. I sit working on the project for a couple of hours, then look it over appraisingly to assess the length I think I may have added over the span of those hours.

It is then I am reminded that I need not worry about the timing. I adore knitting and I love knitting for people I care about. Each row I complete with this incredible mink is clicked out with thoughts of my son. I am passionate about this act of creating, and there is blessing in having the time to do this thing I love. Somehow, I will find time to do all the little things I need to do, but for just this moment,  I will take time to hold him in my heart as I knit and purl for him. Sure, life is busy... but I don't want to miss what really matters to me.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Refreshed with Hopeful Expectation

January feels fresh to me this year. Day after day, I have an unshakable sense of 2015 being a season of new beginnings... like the casting on of a brand new project with an amazingly soft yarn after finishing one that had been challenging.

Not that 2014 was necessarily a "bad year", but there were the markings of loss and struggle... times of difficulty and adjustment.

I struggled with things that I had to learn to let go of, and the process was both mournful and freeing. I lost an important friendship, and said my final goodbye to someone I loved. And yet 2014 brought with it fresh beginnings as well.

As I scrolled through the photos on my iPhone, it was like watching my entire year in review. I had times of worry and times of pain. There was joy, laughter and acceptance. The year was so quick, yet looking back the memories seem too much for just one twelve-month cycle, and I guess the span of the last nearly seven years feels much the same way. Roads diverged. Pathways sometimes navigated in twilight and yet still, miraculously guided.

And as I waved a loving goodbye to an entire decade in my life, it feels like maybe there's a whole new thing just dawning on the horizon of 2015. Refreshment. Hope. Joy. It just feels like everything is new.

I have big plans in store for 2015. I see all the little details coming perfectly together... how it all works like it's part of one great master plan. Sure, there will be adjustments to make, but this joy that has grown in my heart feels like welcoming home a long lost friend.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Happy New Year! Whooo-Hooooo!

2015. A new year has begun, and I ponder the meaning. Each year, the big NYE celebrations are spotlighted, and Hollywood has long set up heavy expectation for midnight on the last day of the year. Yet year after year (really since I was only in my teens), I have felt oddly the same as the day before and with that realization, has come the annual impression that I missed something the night before. My life is abundant. I have (really) more than I need to survive, a wonderful husband and a beautiful family. The hoopla of NYE, in my opinion, is more hype than is required for the turning of one year into another. I suppose we can reflect on the events of the previous year, or look with learned expectation and optimism forward into the span of months ahead. Yet, I am still happier living each day as an individual unit... without the baggage of yesteryear or the impatient heavy expectation for tomorrow.

Over the holidays, I had opportunity for some extra time off, so I finished the Big Bad Wool Cardigan I was knitting for our little guy. White (for some reason I can't explain) is his favorite color yarn (if nearly-5-year olds have a favorite yarn color), and he had asked me to make for him a white sweater.

About half-way into the project, he found a remnant of blue alpaca left over from a cardigan I made for his uncle, and asked me to add a little blue to his sweater.

It was a simple modification of the pattern, so I opted to add two indigo stripes of the alpaca to his left sleeve, and kept the garter stitch pattern in stripe.

I thought the Big Bad Wool buttons were a bit oversized for the child-sized cardigan, so I chose instead an eclectic assortment of hand-made buttons (found on Etsy), and added an extra button to the front closure.

Adding a "Wear it Out" tag behind the shoulders, and blocking to give it a little stretch, my little guy's sweater was ready for battle.

As we move away from 2014 and into this new year, it is without a sense of any major regret. Any decision I made (or failed to make) last year has led me to the place where I am today, and as I look back at my yesterdays, I know they have prepared me for what is next to come.

But for now, all I have is today, and I am grateful for that.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Making Room at Christmas

It's Christmastime. A short two weeks ago, on a Wednesday night, one of our pastors was speaking about Christmas, and mentioned it was two weeks away. My husband and I looked at each other in shocked realization... we had done very little to prepare as the holiday seemed to sneak right up on us.

I love Christmas. As a child living in the midwest, I remember the electric-powered candelabras my mother would place in our windows at Christmas. I would stand, face pressed close enough to my upstairs bedroom window to create fog on the glass, watching the snow in the illumination of the street lights. Excitement would keep me from any meaningful sleep as I waited for with a hopeful heart.

Sometime in my youth, my family moved west, and Christmas would come to my heart with a little more difficulty. Without the obvious change in Season to click down the days to December 25th, Christmas felt oddly early, and the stereotypical lyrics sounded... well, kind of silly.

Over the years, I've come to rather enjoy Christmas in +64 degree weather. It is invariably sunshiny on a Las Vegas Christmas Day, and I love not having to worry about needing a coat when we venture out. Our tree is adorned with decoration that reminds us of those we love, and the life we've made together.

There are memories of Christmas past... and things that represent our lives today.

My little guy helps me with each preparation, and I see the "spirit" of Christmas swell fully in his adorable heart. He carefully wraps a gift he selected for his Papa, and I see his excitement as he places it beneath the tree. It's his first experience with giving.

I know that Christmas isn't about sparkling blankets of white on our lawn. As the Grinch in the childhood story finds out, "it comes without ribbon... it comes without tags... it comes without packages, boxes and bags."

It will come, with the richness and wonder of it's glorious meaning.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Friends that Stick Closer than a Brother

I have heard it said that there are friends who can sometimes destroy us, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother. I don't know about you, but I have experienced the sting of truth of this very proverb. Though the proverb, in most translations, points to one who sticks closer than a brother, I know there are people in my life during the here and now who demonstrate the proverb in living translation.

This past weekend, my husband and I (our little guy in tow) traveled the 4 1/2 hours by car to San Diego to be with some friends at a time of the year when they need a little extra love. Four years ago, we met our friends for the first time, for the simple purpose of supporting them on a journey through which we walked about two years ahead of them, and we have grown to be (for each other) that kind of friend.

We know that when we spend time together, none of us needs to be the best of who we are... or anything at all. There are no expectations over which to feel disappointed. No pressure to be anything but the sheer truth of who we are in the moment. There is comfort in knowing that variety of deep love and acceptance.

There are no worries about what to do, for we can just hang out together sipping a glass of wine or take time to plan a great day of adventure... it's all the same to us. This year, we spent a day in Sea World because our little guy had never been. It was a taste of bittersweet to our friends, for memories of their son experiencing Sea World at the same age as our little guy brought with it both feelings of loss and sweet remembrance. There were moments in the day when our friends just needed a minute to withdraw, and other moments of respite joy and distraction. Whatever came our way, we just were in it together.

I know that December 7th is the hardest day of the year for them. I know that the simple act of being there for them gives them comfort in knowing that someone remembers and understands their pain. We don't need to make it better or come prepared with some great words of wisdom to fix the pain they feel.

We can just point to the way we have walked before them, and offer a loving heart and hand.

For at the end of the day, that's all we are called to do when the tide rushes in.

Monday, December 1, 2014

It Doesn't Matter if You Win or Lose...But it Does

Our little guy was watching a little television in my room while I was getting ready for my day... there are great shows on PBS for little ones, and he was absorbed with an episode of Sesame Street. Throughout the show, I kept hearing a repeated theme and statement, "It doesn't matter if you win or lose; all that matters is how you play the game."

We have been working with our little guy, lately, on this concept of playing games. I find him saying, "I win/you lose!" when he (legitmately) wins a game of tic-tac-toe, and I feel the need to shape his attitude over winning. But my message is less about it not mattering who wins, and more about the grace involved with winning.

I don't agree with the well-intended folks at Sesame Street that it doesn't matter if you win or lose. Of course it matters. Teaching my little guy that it doesn't matter (in my opinion) is to say, in essence, it doesn't matter if you really do your best or even try. I believe in life, we should always do our best. When doing our best produces success or a win... good for us! Yet when doing our best alternatively leads us to something which fails and we are graceful in the loss... then in a sense, I guess there is good in that too. It matters. Of course, it matters.

With my knitting, I pay careful attention to selecting a great fiber for the project I want to knit. I know that giving my best to the pattern instructions yields the best result, and when I don't get it right, I tink back until I am able to successfully complete the instruction. That careful attention matters, for it is the stuff that sets my knitting apart so it looks handmade... not homemade. There is a visible difference and it matters to me.

I know when teaching children the most complicated of concepts we sometimes need to over-generalize, but I want our little guy to reach his own greatness (to whatever extent that is). I know it matters, for no child dreams of mediocrity.

So of course it matters if we win or lose... it is silly to pretend it doesn't matter. But what matters most is the grace we show with the result we achieve.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Act Justly, Love Mercy, Use Your Head

I have often talked about trusting the pattern, when things seem unclear, in order that things can turn out the way the designer intended, and I hold to that philosophy as one of the simple truths of my life. Yet what is clear to me is that there are also times when using common sense and judgment is what we need to create the outcome we desire. When adhering strictly to the letter of the pattern yields a result that I can (clearly) see isn't correct, it is time to rely upon common sense and critical thinking.

This weekend, I came to a point that required short rows in the Fireside Cardigan I am knitting for our little one. The pattern instructions said to pick up and knit around the right front, back and left front edges before beginning the one-by-one rib edging around the sweater. No specific number of stitches was designated, so long as an odd number was achieved, and I was to place a marker (for the beginning of short rows) at the 76th stitch on the right side.

Only that 76th stitch did not occur in the middle of the back collar... it was off to the left side of the sweater near the shoulder. The instruction didn't make sense, but (nonetheless) I decided to trust the pattern. I could see the short rows were creating a wider collar on one side than the other, so three rows in, I tinked the short rows out, re-read the instructions and began again. Still, another 6 rows into the 8 row instruction, it became painfully clear that the designer had intended those short rows to begin at the back center. (So I tinked out the 6 rows again.)

Deciding that the designer must have picked up 152 stitches around her sweater, I placed the marker at the center of my own version and began again the short rows. What it created was a rise in the back side of the collar which folds down, evenly resting on both sides before the buttoned placket.

I think sometimes we can be blinded by simple instructions. I see this when in my own life (and sometimes in the lives of my Christian friends), we hold so tight to the letter of what is written that we forget that what the Designer intended to create is grace, mercy and love. How often I have missed seeing an opportunity to create goodness because I have been too focused on the words to see the intent.

And I love that I can tink back when what I'm creating is less than what I hoped it would be.