Monday, May 27, 2013

Workmanship


Each morning I wake up in my little home, the first thing upon which my eyes alight is this quilt.


Mum made this quilt for my birthday in 2007. There are 36 picture squares which give a concise reminder of significant moments and people in my life. The top row has pictures of both sets of my grandparents, for example. As I progress through the pictures I see how I have been raised and protected, challenged and invested in by my parents and family.

I see how I have been loved through the first five decades of my life.

Framing the picture area are three borders, sewn meticulously and with such great care, holding my life together. Mum knew her eldest girl, knew how important symmetry and balance and structure are to the daughter whose life has been haphazard and seemingly unscripted in many ways. And she fashioned a quilt accordingly. It took her untold hours to find and choose the pictures, get them scanned, find the five complementary fabrics, sew everything together, carefully press the finished masterpiece.

It's a work of art. 

Something else that was a work of art was revealed to BA, Deb and me this trip to India. We were driving up to the College campus in Coimbatore one afternoon when Mohan, the college's loyal employee who was driving us that day, pulled over just before we entered the campus gates. "I want to show you something," he said.

We entered a small bungalow and - where you would expect to see the living room - were greeted by a long, complicated machine. "Sari weaving," Mohan explained succinctly.


A husband and wife team weaves saris on a loom, plucking at threads - it would appear at random - and creating 9 beautiful metres of shimmering colour. The husband was the master weaver that day. Even with the unexpected guests, with all the chatter and laughter around him, he never broke his concentration. His feet paddled away in the cutout of the floor, his hands flew over the loom and he muttered his count to himself so that the pattern would be pure.

























































After expressing our appreciation for their artistry, we walked across the road to a tiny, unprepossessing shack.



Inside we were greeted by a lady who was operating a spinning wheel, drawing forth and spooling a particularly rich gold thread. "We weave wedding saris," she elaborated.


Spooling the gold thread

Skein of golden thread































Completed wedding sari















The purchasers of these exquisite saris never see the work of these master craftspeople. They do not know the hours and care that go into weaving each one, the long stretches of intense concentration required to bring such a garment into being. They don't observe the unerring eye of the artist that can detect what colours and textures will work to create an original, unique piece.

Each morning when I look at my quilt I am also reminded of the card my Dad gave me for my 50th birthday. It resonated with me so deeply that I asked him to find me the same card again for this birthday. And he did!

Each year as I get older I find these words from Paul's letter to the Ephesians, chapter 2 and verse 10, increasingly remarkable:

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we should walk in them.

The word workmanship, Dad explained, is the translation of the Greek word poeima. Yet in this context, Dad observed, it goes much deeper than simply the spoken word; it carries with it the thought of a poem being woven into the warp and woof of tapestry, a permanent record of the unique life that God has designed for each one of us. No two patterns are the same.

I think of my own life recently: dropped threads, adjusted expectations, unexpected roadblocks. This last trip to India was very hard for me somehow, revealing how some of the fibers of my life began to unravel back around the time I was in university, how each subsequent decade exposes its own tale of knotted strands, botched patterns, unfinished fragments.  

On the flip side, the conferences this year contained some of the most significant preaching and teaching I have ever been privileged to hear. The richness and depth are also weaving their stories into the tapestry for this decade as I come to terms with what is past and look ahead to  the future.

Still, I think to myself, God didn't "prepare" this template for my life! 

But as I take the time to examine the tapestry itself more closely, to recall the stories behind the messy motifs and the sometimes awkward arrangements of colour and texture, I realize that while a lot of the jarring patches are a result of uninformed or badly calculated choices on my part and not what God would have chosen for me at all, God's hand can be seen in the overall work. He doesn't abandon His handiwork just because it is flawed. He works with the damaged and frayed cords, incorporating the uneven areas into the tapestry, repairing and blending until - taken as a whole - they become an integral part of the beauty en bloc.

Because throughout my life can be seen glimpses of a golden thread so rich and pure that it makes the one we saw in Coimbatore seem dull and faded in comparison. God's golden thread through my life is Grace. I can trace its course from my birth up until today. God promises me that His grace is sufficient for me, that His strength is made perfect in my weakness. As long as I can see the beautiful glint of gold in the tapestry, I know that He is in control and that all will be well. Even during the pieces where I have sewn haphazardly over the golden thread, blocking it from view, I discover that if I turn the fabric over to the "working side" it is still there, its stitches strong and undeterred.

There's a hymn I have loved over the years since I heard it in Coonoor - my Mum used to sing snippets of it around the house sometimes - but never more so than in the last few months. It was written by Mrs F.G. Burroughs in 1920, and its title is 

Transformed:


  1. Dear Lord, take up our tangled strands,
    Where we have wrought in vain,
    That by the skill of Thy dear hands
    Some beauty may remain.
    • Refrain:
      Transformed by grace divine,
      The glory shall be Thine;
      To Thy most holy will, O Lord,
      We now our all resign.
  2. Touch Thou the sad, discordant keys
    Of every troubled breast,
    And change to peaceful harmonies
    The sighings of unrest.
  3. Where broken vows in fragments lie—
    The toil of wasted years—
    Do Thou make whole again, we cry,
    And give a song for tears.
  4. Take all the failures, each mistake
    Of our poor human ways,
    Then, Savior, for Thine own dear sake,
    Make them show forth Thy praise.



So I gather myself together, carefully readjusting the loom and checking for the colours and textures of the threads. And as I prepare to press forward into weaving the tale of the next decade, I read the inside of the card, where Dad has added a note: "It is still true - you are a 'poem'!"


11 comments:

  1. This is so beautiful and precious, Karyn. You brought tears to my eyes.

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  2. I echo Naomi F's comment. This is the first of your blog's I have read. You captured it all wonderfully. Thank you Karyn

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  3. I echo Naomi F's comment. This is the first of your blog's I have read. You captured it all wonderfully. Thank you Karyn

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  4. Thanks so much....you have no idea how much I needed this right now!
    Blessings & Shalom,
    Wendy

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  5. Beautifully written Karyn!!

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  6. Just want to let you know that the Lord used you to be a great encouragement to me today:). Many times I think that I've messed up and wasted great portions of the life that the Lord has been so gracious to give me, but then I'm reminded how He can turn our failures into wonderful masterpieces. Pointing others to the Saviour and drawing us closer to Him, marvelling in the beauty of His love and forgiveness.

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  7. to add... I'm sure you've read the book, The Grand Weaver by Ravi Zacharias. Your piece reminded me of this amazing book. http://www.apologetics315.com/2012/10/book-review-grand-weaver-by-ravi.html

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    1. Dear Sylvia, I have NOT read this book! I will track it down - thank you!

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  8. How beautifully written Karyn...don't we all hold on to this golden thread in our lifetime...life's challenges definitely make us stronger and closer to God whose brightness never ceases...just like the golden thread!!
    And I would love to see this beautiful quilt one day ...such a thoughtful gift from your Mum.

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  9. So true, Karyn. Loved it!

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