The ties that bind

Renee Ann Smith —  September 26, 2010 — 22 Comments

A photo of my grandmother, Marion Rossman Mann, with tablecloths she crocheted.

My grandmother loved to knit, tat, and crochet. She embellished the edges of plain cotton pillowcases and handkerchiefs with tatting, a delicate lace made by looping and knotting a single cotton thread. She crocheted beautiful doilies and tablecloths, which now grace the homes of her children and grandchildren.

And, of course, she made practical items, cranking out mittens and slippers faster than any cottage industry. In fact, Nannie became so proficient at mitten production that in her later years (she lived to be 102), the only diagram she needed was a rough tracing of a little hand on some old scrap of paper. Then she went to work, giving life to her creation from the patterns stored in her memory.

Sometimes a family member would ask for a specific color or buy a skein of yarn for her to make into something special. But I found I was most satisfied when I simply let her create. Then whatever piece I chose carried the style and design that was uniquely hers.

Even our college roommates recognized Nannie-made mittens and asked for them as Christmas gifts.

In the same way, each creation of our Heavenly Father illustrates His distinctive flair for design—including you and me.

Let these verses from Psalm 139 soak into your soul:

For You [God] formed my inward parts; you wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well.

My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes have seen my unformed substance, and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.

When I really want to open up the meaning of a passage, I pull the sentences apart and

My mother, Marion Irene, with a sweater my grandmother made for her.

focus on a few key words. (I am an English teacher, after all.) So let’s look at two specific words from the lines above.

Wove: In the original language, the word wove refers to having been created and fashioned out of existing material, like cloth which has been woven into a garment. We’re all made from the same raw material. But God’s unlimited imagination came up with myriads of patterns by which to design each one of us.

Wrought: The word wrought refers to the skillful and artistic needlework found in the curtains of the Old Testament Tabernacle.

A pocket handkerchief, embellished with my grandmother's tatting.

It means embroidered. The fancy kind of sewing women use to make an ordinary, everyday item into something beautiful enough to be treasured from generation to generation.

These words capture God’s artistic intent as He went about forming each man and woman.

The last section of the passage says that He planned you and me with an earthly purpose in mind. Each person’s path is different, yet all our days were ordained by Him. This idea is sometimes difficult to accept—at least for me.

In the past, I tried to use God’s own words as a crowbar to pry Him away from the plans He made for me. I used to “claim” Psalm 37:4, Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart.

I would say, “Okay, Lord. This is what I want. And You promised to give it to me.”

Cross stitch sampler on linen by Renee Ann Smith, one of my favorite projects

Then a kind friend told me I was reading the verse wrong. She encouraged me to substitute the word shape for give. I remember asking (after she walked away), “Since when does He get to decide what’s best for me?”

The answer came, “When I formed you in your mother’s womb, I planned your days and saw who you would need to be.”

God knew exactly what lay ahead for each one of us when He was filling our minds and bodies with talents and abilities and our hearts with dreams.

So Who better to trust with all that we are? And Who better to direct how we use what we were given?

My own experiences with needlework have been different from my grandmother’s.

My grandmother, Marion Rossman Mann, 1922

But both of us were able to follow in the footsteps of a creative Heavenly Father and bring beauty to life with a simple cotton thread.

Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will shape the desires of your heart.

Renee Ann Smith

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I teach literature in a Christian high school by day and write inspirational fiction by night. I love to share heart-touching quotes and stories here on my blog. So glad you stopped by!

22 responses to The ties that bind

  1. You brought back fond memories of my grandmother. She lived to be 103! She did needlepoint, tatting, embroidery, and knitting. I remember watching her with awe at how fast she could tat. Now there is a dying art! My grandmother taught me to do cross stitch. I finished my first one was at the age of 6! She would always want to see the back of my work. The back was always a sign of skill by how neat it was!! I used to stress out about it, but it was a good lesson on so many levels. As an adult, I am learning it has other meanings. We can put on all sorts of masks (the front of the embroidery) to portrait what we think other people are expecting, or to hide our pain. But it is the inside or the behind the scene (the back of the embroidery) that is most important. What is really going on the inside of a person is so important to God. It has been a hard lesson for me to learn to trust God. If I can accept that He thought of me first, created me, planned my days, and will always be there for me, then I should be able to live in the delight of the Lord! Trust and acceptance. Simple thoughts, but not always easy to carry out.

  2. I never had a Grandmother..or a Grandfather. They were all gone before I was born, and I was the first of 5 children my parents had. I cherish the pieces I have that my Mom made, and my Hubby’s Mom made too.
    You are very blessed, what beautiful pieces and memories you have. Wonderful remembrances!

  3. Psalm 37:4 has come up many times in the ministry that I have with the teen girls and I am so in love with the new way to “say” it, substituting shape for give! I read through it three times with the substitute and it actually makes me feel better! I know that when I plan my steps I am always disappointed and when I think of God molding and shaping my life I feel so special, and beautifully created! Thanks for sharing these thoughts, I will be sure to use them with my girls!

  4. I love to dig deep into Scripture, so I appreciate the “English teacher” approach, Renee. Your insights brought new meaning to one of my favorite passages.

    You also brought treasured memories of my grandmother to mind. Born in 1899, she grew up in the mountains of north Georgia in what I would call very primitive and rustic surroundings. She cooked basic, crowd-pleasing meals and was quite creative with needle and thread. I, who has trouble replacing a lost button, did not inherit her skills! But I treasure the hand-written cookbook she made me as a wedding present, and also some tablecloths and quilts. Thank you for sharing your grandmother with us.

  5. Oh, for an edit button!! I should have said, “I, who have trouble…”

    Naturally I would make that mistake on an English teacher’s blog!

  6. So true about Psalm 37:4 – Even living over seas – when leaving one micronesian Island to return back to Hong Kong, I said “Lord, let us living in Hong Kong, I know it now, I’m used to it.” He said, “No, you are going to live IN China now. I have things for you there….He DOES shape our hearts, our desires to be HIS. I’m so thankful for that, life would be pretty miserable if He didn’t shape our hearts…I guess I should rephrase that. He shapes the hearts of those who let Him. There ARE a lot of miserable Christians walking around – because they are struggling with letting Him shape their hearts. There is joy in allowing Him to do the shaping. Thanks for sharing the story, Renee.

  7. Ah this made me stop and think. My Grandmother also crocheted, embroidered and sewed and my Mother too. She is in her late seventies. Unfortunately I have not been patient enough to learn the art or indeed patient enouh to spend enough time thinking about what matters in the world so it seemed appropriate today to find your blog and spend a little thoughtful time with your words. Thank you.
    Also thank you for dropping by my blog which you did at the same time as I was reading this. How strange.

  8. Just wonderful! This was exactly what I needed to hear today. Thank you for linking it up. It makes me think not only of my life, but the life of my son. He is almost 1 year old now and I think in about 2 minutes I am going to go wake him from his nap and kiss that belly to hear him giggle! I watch him play with his toys everyday… he doesn’t exactly play with them; he inspects them. He is developing right in front of my eyes and some days I think I see him as he’ll be in 20 years, still discovering, still investigating, still learning all he can about the world around him. He just amazes me day after day. It amazes me still that God used my frail body to create this amazingly intelligent being.

    Thank you so much for stopping by my faith blog. I am so glad to have met you today. I’m following you now.

  9. Such a special skill and gift passed down through generations. My mother did not learn any sewing or crochet type skills, though I have taken a sewing lesson or two and tried to learn the craft.

  10. Who better, indeed! A wonderful story of love, Renee. Thank you for sharing.

  11. Love this story. I love how you went more deeper than just a beautiful hobby passed down. Great insight.

  12. That was very beautiful and it stops and makes you think. Thank You.

  13. This is a lovely post. It is difficult for me to grasp that God has a plan for me. So often the world around us seems so callous and I wonder where I’m going and what’s my part in all of it. This is a nice reminder that just because we don’t understand it doesn’t mean the plan isn’t already in place.

  14. Thanks for stopping in ladies! I so enjoyed reading all your contest entries when I visited your blogs!

  15. My Grandmother crocheted and knitted. She taught me crochet long ago. She’s gone now, but I still crochet. And I taught myself knitting, cross stitch, weaving and, I’m working on tatting. I’ve even spun my own yarn. My love of all fiber arts is her legacy to me.
    You’ve brought her memory to the front of my thoughts. Thank you!

    And? Thank you for stopping by my entry.

  16. :_) Beautiful memories indeed. My grandmother (still living) doesn’t sew she cooks. I tell you my most favorite memory of her is helping her to bake corn pone on the outside fire. On a matter of the heart, this has made me think seriously of How I treat God. I so often dictate to Him what I want to see happen in my life instead of putting Him at the head where He should be and relinquishing the reins to Him.
    The sad thing is, when I make decisions for myself they ALWAYS go wrong and He has to come in and save me. Do I ever learn? (Sigh)…… God is working on me though and slowly He is teaching me the meaning of total surrender. What a day it will be when I learn to relax and totally lean on Him. I can’t wait; I know it will happen because He has promised that the work He has started in me will one day come to fruition. Keep on being Godly Renee.

    • I can imagine corn pone baked over an outside fire must be very satisfying. So are the sweet memories we carry in our hearts of our loved ones. God is sweet, too, to keep on being so patient with us. We fall, and He picks us up and dusts us off to set us back on the path. And then we fall again . . . I think that’s just how life is going to go until heaven! Thanks for stopping in, Shanniel. Hope you visit often!

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