Guess what I saw today? I saw a sewing machine.
I saw material flow through the fabric feed of the sewing machine. I saw the needle poke holes in the red and green patterned material in my hands. Best of all, I could see what my hands were doing from ten inches away, not nose to needle like it used to be.
My mother loved to sew. Her young adult years were in the age where it was more economical to make your own clothes than to buy them. The only clothes our family ever bought were jeans and undergarments and even, there, the second category was suspect. My mother and grandmother would rather mend a pair of panties than replace them.
My legal blindness status did not deter my mother from teaching me to sew. After all, every woman needs to make her own clothes, her husband’s shirts, and her children’s clothes. Mother enrolled me in 4-H, hoping I would be more cooperative and motivated under other teachers.
I hated sewing. With a passion.
Still, Mother stood over me with every project, correcting my mistakes with words and remakes. She never let me off the hook. She never said, “I guess you can’t do this because you can’t see.” Other people did. But my personality was such that I said, “Oh yeah?” And I tried harder to do what I inwardly hated.
I seethed inside.
Every stitch and every unthreaded needle became an obstacle to overcome. What took others two minutes would take me a half hour. Six years of incessant battles had to pass before Mother and I accepted the fact that I had to pace myself and take numerous breaks. Otherwise, after 30 minutes, my sewing techniques would tank due to eye fatigue.
I was brought up in a generation where you didn’t question your parents’ judgements. I never rebelled against my mother’s insistence that I learn to sew. But I expressed my frustration a number of times in a number of ways. It was the one big battlefield of my teenage years. Despite my angst, I gathered a box of red and blue fair ribbons, even becoming runner up in a 4-H fashion show for a well-matched plaid pants and jacket combo.
When I was 29 years old, I struggled with a dress for my baby daughter. I looked up at my husband with tears in my eyes and said, “I’m an adult now. I don’t live with my mother. I’m not doing this anymore. I don’t HAVE to sew!” And I didn’t – for 30 years.
I made the mistake recently f showing my plaid pants outfit to a group of women as an object lesson for a Bible devotion. Two weeks later, as I cruised through the church building on several errands, the leader of our ladies’ sewing circle stopped me. “We need a third sewing machine operator and I know now that you can sew,” Amy said. “Will you help us?”
Did I mention I hate to sew? I’ve got all this baggage from the past. I’m the rebellious type that doesn’t want to do what people tell me I ought to do. But I’m also the minister’s wife and I’m not supposed to ever say no. Besides, we were making Christmas stockings for the mission group, Elder Orphan Care, that distributes Christmas Stockings of Joy filled with goodies for elderly homeless people in Romania. It’s a mission near and dear to my heart, and I wanted to be supportive. But I’ve made clear to my women’s group that sewing is not my spiritual gift.
Amy stood, waiting for an answer. Can you believe I said yes? But I warned her,“I won’t do a good job. You’ll have to rip out what I do.”
She didn’t blink.
I sat at the sewing machine and all that sewing knowledge from 30 years ago rushed back. I put my nose to the needle and backed off. I stood up. “Everything is blurry. I’m going home for my computer glasses.”
And another of God’s mini-miracles rose from the cloth. The struggle was non-existent. I could SEE what I was doing – the material feeding through the mechanism, the individual stitches, the marks on the controls, and how much material hung over for the seam allowance. I didn’t get muscle spasms in my neck from hunching over the machine. I could sit upright like other women. I CAN SEE TO SEW!
Someone commented that I wasn’t talking much.
“She’s concentrating,” Amy said.
No, I’m crying. I’m crying over a sewing machine.
Crying tears of joy that something that used to be so hard and frustrating is now tolerably possible.
I still tire easily. And I still don’t enjoy sewing. I’d rather write and cook than sew. But I’ll go back next week. Why?
I shared my discovery on Facebook in another of my “Guess what I saw today?” comments. One sweet person commented how wonderful that I was really using my miracle of sight.
I hadn’t thought of that.
Ever since the surgery that gave me better vision than I’ve ever had before, I’ve prayed that God would give me opportunities to use the gift of improved eyesight to bless others. I thought opportunities would come in the form of writing and speaking – of telling the story of what God has done for me. The Lord has certainly given me those chances. I now see that He had other things in mind as well. My better vision has made it easier to lead worship at church, play the piano, take care of house responsibilities while my husband recuperates from surgery, and now, sewing for Elder Orphan Care.
Is it hard? Yes. I still can’t see as well as the other women. My eyes still jitter, making focus difficult. I walked out of the sewing circle with a dizzying headache. Yet I think of the hard life those elderly homeless people in Romania face. Some of them are homeless because their own children abandon them on the street, refusing to give them the final years of care and love they need. I think of how other Romanian elderly – professional doctors, teachers, and engineers – spend the last season of their life in obscurity and poverty. Surely I can overlook a bit of fatigue, discomfort, and dislike for a task to be part of a plan that gives these people in the sight of God a few basic necessities.
My Lord Jesus suffered agonizing pain on the cross. He did it to bless me with the gift of eternal life. Couldn’t I endure a bit of eye strain so an elder orphan can have the gift of hope?
I was wrong about something else.
I was gifted. God gave me the gift of sight. He gave me a knowledge of sewing, a compassion for older people, and a passion for the work of Elder Orphan Care. I may not enjoy sewing as much as my mother or as much as I enjoy other creative arts, but I cannot say I am not gifted. Because I am.
Any of us, every one of us has gifts that we can use for God’s glory and for extending God’s grace to those who have need. God doesn’t ask us to be better than everyone else before we serve Him. He asks us to use what we do have to be our best for Him.
What gifts has God given you? Can you see? Can you hear? Do your fingers work? All of those are gifts from God.
The need is great and I am using what I do have to meet the need. And in that, I find joy. A stocking full of joy!