Weaving Rugs from Rags

Most of us who’ve grown up in church have heard the poem, “The Weaver,” which tells about how God is making something beautiful out of our lives, which we won’t really understand or appreciate in all its glory until we reach heaven.

However, if you’re like me, you may not have had many opportunities in life to actually weave something on a loom, so I wanted to share a little bit about what I learned, not only about the pleasure of weaving a rug from rags, but also about how God weaves our lives.

Bags of scrap material cut into strips

At Ability Weavers, where Cindi, Susan, and I wove our rugs, we were invited to choose as many different types of material as we wanted from a wonderful assortment of fabrics and colors.

After we’d selected our fabrics, Beryl taught us how to wrap the pieces on shuttles. We started by loading 6 shuttles, but it really took much more material than I would have guessed, so I had to go back a couple of times for more cloth!

Each loom had a name. Mine was called “Grandma,” I think because it was one of the original looms. Although the looms were pretty similar, the materials we chose were strikingly different.

I took pleasure in noting that both Susan and Cindi chose materials that complemented the clothing they were wearing (although that had nothing to do with where they were planning to place their rugs)!

Beyond the variations in fabric types and colors, we each got to decide whether or not we wanted a distinct pattern or a more random design. It took us several hours to carefully pass the shuttle through the loom hundreds of times, each time tightening the fabric by pulling (HARD) on the shuttle so that the material wouldn’t unravel.

Something else that surprised me was that we didn’t have to make sure the fabric was always perfectly straight and even. We were told that the twists and turns in the cloth strips just added interest and variation in the pattern and would look just fine when we were all finished. That made the threading process much easier!

I chose three different types of material: upholstery fabric, strips of cloth, and a furry, fuzzy “something” (yarn-like) that I learned later had to be bought special (as opposed to most of the strips, which were cut from scrap materials donated by various businesses).

While weaving, it’s important to keep from putting too much tension on the threads at the end of each line, so that the carpet doesn’t become constricted or misshapen.

As I worked, it was impossible not to consider how the Lord weaves us! You may resent being considered a “rag,” but I do not! Isaiah 64:6 explains it this way: “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” We may think we’re pure and holy and good, but God knows we are not, at least not completely. Not yet, as long as we struggle on this earth. As we are taught in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” If you have any doubts about our capacity as humans to be evil, watch the new 2019 documentary, The Devil Next Door (rated 7.7 on IMDb but not for children due to footage of concentration camps during World War 2). This 5-part series delves into the search by our OSI (Office of Special Investigations) to find “Ivan the Terrible,” the sadistically cruel operator of the gas chamber at Treblinka, Poland, who was responsible for the murder of 850,000 people. Alan and I watched it last weekend, and I think it’s one of the most disturbing documentaries I’ve ever seen. I don’t think any of us appreciate our capacity for evil. I’m sure I do not, but I believe what the Bible says.

At any rate (not to be too dark!), in many ways, God lets us weave our own lives, but if we ask Him to be our master and guide, our lives become a wonderful partnership between God’s Holy Spirit and us! God often gives us a huge amount of freedom in choosing the materials and colors and types of fabric that will go into our lives (although He usually prescribes the dark strands of challenging circumstances). We each have a name (“Grandma” fits me just fine!), and although the process of weaving rags into rugs is very similar, the designs and end results are all completely unique and “original,” not only the texture and color, but the size, the shape, and the patterns. All the while we work, just like Beryl was assisting us and helping us when we got stuck, the Holy Spirit instructs and guides us in the process of weaving our lives. Also, there always seems to be an ample supple of material (grace?), so we can keep going back to the store room for more whenever we run out!

Like weavings, our lives requires hundreds of repetitions, a certain amount of banging and pressure to strengthen us so we don’t unravel with use, but not too much tension, or we’ll end up constricted and misshapen. Strangely enough, the twists and turns in the fabric of our lives only add to the beauty and depth of the final product, and if we understand that as we work through life, it helps protect us from too much anxiety over the need to be “perfect” each step of the way!

Anyway, it was such a good experience that I’d love to do it again sometime and am already dreaming of other places where I could “use” another rag rug. Oh, it also occurred to me that each rug was made for a special, unique purpose. Cindi made hers to go beside a bed; Susan is going to place hers at the foot of their stairway, and mine is going to be a table runner for our dining room. God has a special purpose in mind for each of us. Isn’t that a happy thought?

The Weaver

“My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.
Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.
Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned
He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.”
(Authorship disputed but public domain)

I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee” (Psalm 139:14-18).

The Birthday Club: Time to Stroll Lowell

Do you have trouble finding time to get together with your friends no matter how much you want to be together? I’ve found that “time” has gotten to be more of an issue than ever before. Who would have guessed you get busier as you get older? I remember my father joking after he retired that he needed to go back to work so he could take a week off. Thirty years ago, I just thought it was funny. Now, I know what he meant!

Nevertheless, six weeks after the fact, Susan, Cindi, and I met up for a “Stroll through Lowell” (Michigan) to celebrate my birthday!

We started with coffee and tea at the new coffee shop, Brody’s Be (actually in Ada, the little berg next door to Lowell).

Brody’s Be was inspired by Brody’s mom, who opened her heart to make room in this world for the developmentally disabled, starting with her Down Syndrome son.

It was a great place to fill our cups and souls, remembering again how God can bring joy out of sorrow and goodness from grief.

Lowell is a little community about eighteen miles east of Grand Rapids, and it looks like it’s straight out of a Hallmark Christmas movie! (They have a Christmas Parade coming up on December 7th that looks like it’s going to be a really fun event.)

Lowell has all sorts of cute shops on their Main St., and although I didn’t think I had anything on my “Wish List” as we wandered about, I quickly found several items that I’d actually been wanting but hadn’t taken time to track down in Grand Rapids, such as some blue netting for my orchid plants and a Christmas Advent calendar. Springrove Variety also has great prices on their spices. Believe it or not, this tiny 5&10 cent store saved me both time and money! Who would have thought?!!

After just enough shopping to get a flavor for the town and whet our appetites, the girls took me to the Flat Iron Grill for lunch. Definitely excellent food, and the company—as always—was unparalleled! 🙂

However, we were apparently taking a tour of all the best eateries in the area as well as enjoying the shopping, because “the best” in desserts (according to hearsay Susan had learned) was to be found at the Sweet Seasons Bakery, which is renowned for providing cheesecakes for certain celebrities in town.

I tried their pumpkin cheesecake, and it was wonderful . . . definitely worth attempting to imitate!! (I’ll work on it!)

Of course, no party would be complete without cards or gifts, and I got both!

Among several thoughtful and useful gifts, I particularly enjoyed the children’s book Cindi gave me, called Miss Rumphius (because, she said, it reminded her of me). I know my grandchildren are going to love this book about a librarian who travels the world and scatters flower seeds!

“A friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of nature.”

Susan found “the perfect” card that says it all. What would the world be without friends?

Ability Weavers: Weaving with a Purpose

We finished our stroll through Lowell with a four-hour craft project, making handmade rugs and table runners. I hope to tell you more about our experience weaving, but for today, I want to share that this weaving shop, “Ability Weavers,” is another not-for-profit ministry borne out of the love of a mother for her autistic daughter with a heart to provide meaningful employment for people with disabilities.

Honestly, I was blown away by the commitment of these two families in caring and providing for their disabled kids. Beryl (in the photo above) was a pharmacist who gave up her career in order to start a business where her daughter (and others with special needs) could have work, respect, and hope. They pay more than minimum wage and provide an opportunity for many young people to contribute to society by making beautiful rugs. Isn’t this brilliant? Praise God for mothers who sacrifice themselves and choose to invest their time and energy in their children and communities!

One last sidebar, and I’ll quit, but I’m halfway through reading Kisses from Katie. Oh, wow! If you want to read a wonderful (true) story of love for those in need, read this! It will break your heart and make your day! Talk about using time well and living with the purpose of loving others!

The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.”
(Psalm 9:9)

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

“At least I can’t die young anymore! Guess I can scratch that off my bucket list,” Brian grinned just before blowing out the candles on his birthday cake. Not that he really had dying young ON his bucket list, but he IS the oldest known survivor of his type of treatment for his particular type of cancer, which he was diagnosed with when he was only 27. (Very scary to me personally, because my youngest son was 27 yesterday.)

Brian never dreamed he’d make it to his 60th birthday (and frankly, I wasn’t so sure either), so it was with a sense of grateful joy and awe that our Birthday Club treated Brian to a very special birthday party yesterday!

Where to take him? That was easy! The day before he was born, his mother and father were at the John Ball Zoo, and his mom started having contractions, so Brian says he was “almost born at the zoo!”

Brian only visited the zoo once in his life, on his 10th birthday, and he remembered being fascinated by the antics of the otters. Since he hasn’t been back in 50 years, he thought visiting the zoo would be the perfect way to spend his day!

Of course, we wanted to see everything (and pretty much did), but—you know—like everybody, we wanted to make sure we saw “the lions,

the (sleeping? oh, no!) tigers
and (SLEEPING!! 😦 ) bears. Oh, no!”

But, there was no shortage of excitement and fun, including a few “firsts” for Brian, such as petting a goat

and taking a ride on a funicular. (Not sure they were on his bucket list as such, but he thoroughly enjoyed the new experiences!)

We also made a new friend: Herbie! Herbie is 34 and one of the oldest Magellanic penguins in captivity in the world. Herbie’s fur is almost all grey, and he seemed content to swim on the surface, but he was still swimming! It was a little hard not to miss some of the similarities between our new and old friends. Very touching.

Oh, but I wanted to tell you about how teamwork makes the dream work! In this photo, you see Susan in a wheel chair! She turned her ankle helping one of her daughters the day before our outing. Thankfully, her beloved husband took a day off work to help us get the dream team around!

An aphorism of their son-in-law, Seth’s (so we call it a Sethism), is that “teamwork makes the dream work.” I don’t know who said it first, so if you know, please let us know, but . . .isn’t this a clever truism?

And, isn’t God good!? Brian was never able to marry or have a family. His father died several years ago, and his mother passed away 23 weeks ago to the day. But, he has us. He has a family of brothers and sisters in Christ to love him and appreciate him. Brian is a real prayer warrior! He can’t travel much, but he never misses a prayer meeting via telephone for the church on Sunday morning, and he’s never missed a single Monday night prayer meeting for my son Jonathan’s ministry.

He’s knitted booties for all our grand kids, always smiles, and always says it’s too early to start complaining (although he could well have started 33 years ago).

I hope his story brightens your day. It certainly brightened ours!

God setteth the solitary in families: he bringeth out those which are bound with chains: but the rebellious dwell in a dry land” (Psalm 68:6).

The Birthday Club Goes Ludington

When we planned our trip to Ludington State Park for Susan’s birthday outing (months ago), I had visions of bright blue skies and balmy weather, but the weather—like all of life—is totally unpredictable, isn’t it?!

Instead of sunshine, there was a misty rain. Instead of being 80° (which it had been one day last week), it was 52° with a stiff wind.

We debated whether or not we should even try the four-mile hike to the lighthouse because, despite bundling, we knew we’d be uncomfortably cold by the time we climbed to the top of the Big Sable Lighthouse.

However, it seemed like the right thing to do, so we persevered.

It was indeed windy and bone-chillingly cold at the top!

But then, as if by magic, when we descended and started our trek back to the car, a streak of blue appeared along the horizon!

In less than an hour, the dark storm clouds blew away, and soon we were immersed in a world of bright blue skies and—well, maybe not balmy, but certainly lovely—springtime weather!

We recovered with a very late and very yummy lunch at the House of Flavors, where we celebrated Susan’s birthday with gifts and happy conversation. Our Birthday Club isn’t just dedicated to honoring the birthday girl, it’s a time to celebrate the blessings of God and the encouragement of friendship, so there is often a theme and some thoughtful sharing of comforting verses as well as communal prayer on the way home.

This year, Cindi had found a 100+year-old book of poetry from an antique shop (Souvenir Rhymes by James Hamilton) and read some to us. My favorite concerned the preciousness of faithful friends who administer mercy and grace to one another, which I’ll include at the end.

There is something very nurturing about true friends who inspire one another to persevere, not only through gloomy weather but also through gloomy circumstances. I thank God for every treasured friend of mine, and for every person who is willing to be a friend to someone else.

Are you feeling discouraged and sad? We all need companions to journey with us, not only through the bright and balmy times of life, but when the wind is in our faces and we’re not prepared for the unexpected and sometimes very miserable changes in our situations. We need one another to help us push on until the rain passes by and the sun starts shining again!

Have you got a friend? Be a friend! Reach out. We need each other! “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another” (Hebrew 10:23-25, ESV).

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17, ESV).

We Can Do It!

Never Give Up!
 
Here we go again.
I thought I would be finished,
But I’m still not done. 

This was a playful photo was taken when our Birthday Club visited the Michigan History Museum in Lansing. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but I have since! My petty personal problem (currently having a little finger still sporting external pins) pales in the light of the tribulations many people are enduring. Harder still are this world’s global concerns. I’ve recently finished Elie Weisel’s touching book, Open Heart . . . the reflections of an 82-year-old survivor of Auschwitz and a Nobel Laureate. He thought that after World War II, people would learn from the devastation, and that oppression would cease, but this has not happened. The fight for right over wrong, good over evil, and life over death will go on as long as man lives on earth. Our job is to keep fighting and never give up!

Whatever our challenges, God is there and wants to help us. We are encouraged in the New Testament: “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). Some members of my family will be participating in an all-night prayer vigil at Moody in Chicago tonight. Come join in if you have time! God hears and responds to our earnest cries for help, and we citizens of earth need HELP!

Psalm 18, written by King David after he’d been delivered from his enemies, is (to me) the perfect example of how God wants us to approach Him for deliverance from troubles!

Psalm 18

I will love thee, O Lord, my strength.

The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.

I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.

The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid.

The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me.

In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.

Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth.

There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it.

He bowed the heavens also, and came down: and darkness was under his feet.

10 And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind.

11 He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies.

12 At the brightness that was before him his thick clouds passed, hail stones and coals of fire.

13 The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice; hail stones and coals of fire.

14 Yea, he sent out his arrows, and scattered them; and he shot out lightnings, and discomfited them.

15 Then the channels of waters were seen, and the foundations of the world were discovered at thy rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of the breath of thy nostrils.

16 He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters.

17 He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them which hated me: for they were too strong for me.

18 They prevented me in the day of my calamity: but the Lord was my stay.

19 He brought me forth also into a large place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me.

20 The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me.

21 For I have kept the ways of the Lord, and have not wickedly departed from my God.

22 For all his judgments were before me, and I did not put away his statutes from me.

23 I was also upright before him, and I kept myself from mine iniquity.

24 Therefore hath the Lord recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his eyesight.

25 With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful; with an upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright;

26 With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward.

27 For thou wilt save the afflicted people; but wilt bring down high looks.

28 For thou wilt light my candle: the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness.

29 For by thee I have run through a troop; and by my God have I leaped over a wall.

30 As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the Lord is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.

31 For who is God save the Lord? or who is a rock save our God?

32 It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect.

33 He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet, and setteth me upon my high places.

34 He teacheth my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms.

35 Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great.

36 Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip.

37 I have pursued mine enemies, and overtaken them: neither did I turn again till they were consumed.

38 I have wounded them that they were not able to rise: they are fallen under my feet.

39 For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle: thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me.

40 Thou hast also given me the necks of mine enemies; that I might destroy them that hate me.

41 They cried, but there was none to save them: even unto the Lord, but he answered them not.

42 Then did I beat them small as the dust before the wind: I did cast them out as the dirt in the streets.

43 Thou hast delivered me from the strivings of the people; and thou hast made me the head of the heathen: a people whom I have not known shall serve me.

44 As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me: the strangers shall submit themselves unto me.

45 The strangers shall fade away, and be afraid out of their close places.

46 The Lord liveth; and blessed be my rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted.

47 It is God that avengeth me, and subdueth the people under me.

48 He delivereth me from mine enemies: yea, thou liftest me up above those that rise up against me: thou hast delivered me from the violent man.

49 Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O Lord, among the heathen, and sing praises unto thy name.

50 Great deliverance giveth he to his king; and sheweth mercy to his anointed, to David, and to his seed for evermore.

Scallops, Scallops Everywhere!

Do you love scallops?  I do, although they’re so expensive I rarely ever eat them.  I had some last fall at Judson’s Steakhouse in the BOB (here in Grand Rapids, MI) when my son Joel took me out for a special birthday treat!Alan and I also ordered some “Scallops Florentine” for an appetizer at Charlie’s Crab, where we went to celebrate our 46th anniversary last month.Over the years, I’ve enjoyed them on various special occasions, and particularly last summer on our cruise of the North Sea aboard the Celebrity Summit, where scallops were often part of the offerings, not only as a main course, but as a possibility for adding to gourmet spaghetti, as an appetizer (here mixed with avocado, tomatoes, and seasonings), as part of a fresh salad (with lettuce, red onions, tomatoes, green beans, apple chunks, and olives in a light vinaigrette dressing),deep-fried as kabobs with seasoned fries and a sriracha/mayonnaise dip, or as part of a seafood platter extravaganza. Scallops are so special to me that I decided to make some for our annual high tea, where we three Birthday Clubbers invite our guys to join us for an evening of fellowship and unusual taste treats. Here’s a simple but delicious recipe:

Sizzling, Bacon-Wrapped Scallops
(Makes 6)

1. Fry six slices of bacon until nearly done but still flexible. 2. Wrap a strip of bacon around each scallop and secure with a toothpick. (When you shop, make sure the scallops are very firm and fresh; they should not smell fishy! 😦  )3. Season by sprinkling with seasoning salt (I use Lawry’s), dried, crushed garlic, onion powder, basil, and pepper, then fry for 3 minutes at medium-high heat on each side. Serve immediately or cover until ready to serve and then heat quickly to full temperature. (Best if eaten piping hot right away so they don’t get overcooked and mushy.)

Thou crownest the year with thy goodness; and thy paths drop fatness.” (Psalm 65:11)

Cream Pies: Coconut, Chocolate, and Banana

Although I think of cream pies as a summery treat, they’re wonderful any time of year, and they’re fairly simple to make from scratch. Coconut cream is my friend Cindi’s favorite pie, and almost every year I make her one for her birthday. One year, I didn’t have time, so I bought her one at our local “Downtown Market”: $26! I’m quite sure you can make one at home for a quarter of the price (if not less). Here’s how:

Homemade Cream Pies: Coconut, Chocolate, or Banana
(The recipe is for one pie, although the photos are of two pies, so what you’re seeing is actually a doubled recipe.)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.Crust:
Blend together:
1 package graham crackers (9 whole ones), ground up in blender
1/4 cup melted butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamonPat into the bottom of a 10-11″ round pie pan and bake for 12 minutes, or until starting to brown around the edges.Take it out of the oven and place it on a cutting board to cool. Meanwhile, while the crust is baking, make your filling.Filling:
In a large cooking pot, mix
1 cup sugar
1.5 tablespoons corn starch. Mix together thoroughly, then add
2 eggs ((one at a time). Stir until completely mixed, then add
2 cups of milk. Stir again thoroughly. Add:
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup or 4 oz) butter
Turn on the heat to medium high, and stir constantly until the butter melts and the filling thickens and starts to bubble. I use a spatula, so it scraps a big swath across the bottom of the pan. Keep stirring it, making sure you scrap everywhere around the bottom of the pan so it never sticks, burns, or clumps. If you do it right, you’ll have a marvelously smooth, mellow custard pudding when you’re finished! As a finishing touch, add:
1 teaspoon vanilla and stir until completely blended.  Next step: You can use this basic custard to create coconut cream, chocolate, or banana cream pies. Here’s how:  For coconut cream; add 7 oz. of shredded coconut. (I use sweetened coconut flakes, but unsweetened might suit your needs better if you’re trying to use less sugar.) Mix well and pour gently on top of the crust. (The crust can be hot or cooled.)

For chocolate cream: add (while the pudding is still hot) 1/3 cup dark processed cocoa powder OR 12 oz. (1.5 cups) chocolate chips (stir until they’re melted), and then pour onto the pie crust (hot or cooled).

For banana cream: let the pudding cool down, then add sliced bananas (2 large or 3 medium). Stir very gentle so you don’t mash the bananas, then pour the mixture into a cooled crust. Refrigerate to keep the bananas from deteriorating. Banana cream pies need to be eaten as soon as possible, because the bananas won’t stay fresh for several days, the way chocolate or coconut cream will.  Last step: For all three pies, just before serving, top each with whipped cream:
Blend in a mixer until medium peaks form:
8 oz. heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar                 Serve up for dessert after dinner, or as a tea time treat!  I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.  My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the Lord” (Psalm 104:33-34). My spiritual mother used to say that meditating on the Bible is like eating shredded wheat when you’re young, like eating a hamburger when  you’re older, but like enjoying a bowl of peaches and cream when you’re old. I think I’ve gotten old! 🙂