Things I Learned this Winter

Last summer when I was riding my new birthday bike on a trail in the woods, I was reminded of the value of stopping every so often and looking back where you have been. When our only markers for getting home are rocks, trees, and turns in the trail, we need to see the path from different vantage points. Plus, we can catch my breath and ask each other, "Did you just see that?"(chipmunk, owl, deer).

That is what these "What We Learned this (Season)" posts with Emily P. Freeman are all about. We are pausing a moment each season to catch our breath and ask our community, "Did you just see that?".

What seems to happen with these pauses to consider - a moment, a day, a season, a path or a life - is that often a theme emerges that I had been unaware of until I gathered them together for reflection. See if you can find it.

With that value of looking back close in my mind, here are a few things I learned this winter.

1.Linen is not just for summertime.

I have always loved linen - the texture, the weave, the look. A crisp white linen blouse has been a part of my closet as long as I can remember. Then, I discovered a linen nightshirt as my favorite pajamas. A few years ago, I found linen sheets and waited forever for them to go on sale.

Still, I kept all of that lovely texture for summertime. I guess I was following the old rule of no white pants or linen after Labor Day. Was that just in the South?

Last fall, quite by accident, I discovered that linen both breathes in the warm air and warms our bodies in the cold air.

What in the world kind of magic is that?

It was one of those early fall nights when a sunny day suddenly turns into a crisp, cold, starry night. I fell asleep in a linen nightshirt on linen sheets and woke up toasty warm.

Don't save your linen for summertime. Layer it with sweaters on your body and down duvets on your bed.

2.Sashiko is a metaphor for God at work in our lives.

Along with my love for all things linen, flax, and burlap, comes a fascination with fraying and mending. I keep taking this photo of coffee bean bags from my favorite little coffee shop across the mountains. I have taken a version of this photo probably half a dozen times.

Why? Because it seems to echo the idea of redemption to me, of life's threads, of tearing and mending and beauty. How are they all woven together by one Loving Hand?

Sashiko is a method of mending in Japan where the threads are intentionally visible. It is a type of folk embroidery that creates new patterns with running stitches or if you want to get fancy, with geometric shapes. Sashiko is a Japanese word meaning little stabs.

I cannot wait to try this with some jeans, a denim shirt or a couple of sweaters that the moths got to this year.

Last year I was intentionally adding creativity back into my life in a variety of ways, especially as it relates to worship and Sabbath rest. I did some embroidery that made my hands and my heart happy.

I used Beth Coletti's embroidery pattern and her videos on YouTube to learn the stitches. Find Beth and her art here and on Instagram @bethcolletti

I am still integrating small moments of creativity into whatever I can find (Ryan's wedding, lettering, interior design) and lately thrifting and mending.

With sashiko, there is a beauty I hope to make in the mending. A beauty in scars.

3.A wedding is a weaving of many hearts.

I'm guessing you pray for the people your children are becoming along with the people who are becoming the one your child will marry one day. Often or only every once-in-a-while, how I hope you do!

Even if yours are babies and that day seems light years away, it will surprise you how fast it comes like a shooting star.

After dating seven years, our youngest daughter married her high school sweetheart at the end of December. What a way to end 2017! I am still taking it all in.

Their photographer said the feeling that day was sunshine and joy, and finally!

Ryan and Morgan's wedding gave Mike and I another son and another family to love and connect with ours, and us with them. But as I looked at the faces around those happy tables, I realized it wasn't only Ryan and Morgan being tied together in cotton lace and crushed velvet bows. I counted a few hundred people knit together by loving circles around Morgan and Ryan. I also counted two particular families that have braided us together by the weddings of our children to their children.

When asked who gives these two to be married, there were four of us parents who said, "We do". But you know, really all of us there were giving this couple away - to each other, to the community, into God's care.

And we all received back what we gave away, and then some.

Weddings are sound reminders of being knit together, body and soul, and not just the groom and his bride. All of us.

4.The difference between hone and home, and when to use what.

I have been using the word "hone" all wrong.

I knew hone meant "to sharpen" as in hone the blade of a knife. But I was using it in the phrase, "hone in", to mean let's narrow something down or head toward a point.

I kept thinking everyone else had a weird way of saying "home in" when really I was the weirdo saying "hone in". The phrase for zeroing in on an idea really is "home in".

Both can mean sharpen, each in their own way, but not that only. Hone is used when describing the sharpening of an edge or boundary and home is used when describing the sharpening or aiming toward a point or target.

Here is the difference n the definitions:

hone: to sharpen, enlarge, finish/polish

home: to navigate, head toward a point or target

Now, I remember to use the word home in the sense of a homing pigeon, the ones that know how to find their way home.

Speaking of finding our way home . . .

5.Telling our stories helps us see where God always was.

I keep learning to tell my story better and with more life for others. What I mean is every time I tell my story, it feels like a risk, and it is, but it is also an opportunity for God to show up, again. With every look back with fresh eyes, I see something new, some new place or landmark that reveals God was already there.

He wasn't just there at one point in time (He was), but He was also there before that moment that I first saw Him. And He continues to be near as I live and breathe. I need the eyes of others who love Him to help me see His touch.

We are telling our stories in Life Groups at my church. We are working on sharing a 20-minute version of our stories in a small, safe environment where the group response is prayer and pointing out where we see God's presence. No correction, no judgment, no fixing. It is beautiful and difficult.

Telling our stories is hard. Where do we start? What do we say? What do we leave out? What is the point?

Telling our stories of life and faith dredge up questions we are not prepared to answer. But if we keep at it all while living it out, we will meet God again and again and again.

He is always there with needle and thread in His healing hand.