The last several weeks have been my opportunity to catch up on some long-belated projects. Well, anyway, I'm calling it an opportunity. There's about 20 different things chewing at me begging for my attention, leveraging the powers of should and must. But for a variety of reasons, I still just can't. So I've focused on what I could; smaller, non-critical projects.

Sometimes it's frustrating to not be able to do the "bigger" things, to feel as though I'm perpetually wandering in the wilderness. Other times I've been relieved. But most of all, the quiet time has been instructive, and a good reminder of why it is that our Father encourages us to be still in order to hear. I have desperately needed to hear; I've felt so very stuck.

I know that cleaning and mending and making isn't exactly still, but for me it is. When my hands are busy and the world is quiet, my heart is open and I hear the best. So, as I was taking care of hearth and home, I started to see my own heart clearly, for the first time in a long time. 

It wasn't pretty. I spend days in the valley of discouragement, as I recognized bits of myself, laying in disconnected pieces. The way I've been procrastinating about our adoption. Procrastinating about some of the work I want to accomplish, creatively. The doubts I've allowed to speak to me with the authority of truth. I've listened for so long that those voices are now trusted confidants. The confusion as I tried to understand the many unanswered why's in my life. All of it leaves me paralyzed. Stuck and standing still. Not growing. Not moving. Lukewarm. What a desperate feeling that is.

A good friend of mine recently used the analogy of the heart as a garden, and that is so apt. I started to see ways in which the last ten years have planted seeds of distrust and even bitterness in my heart, related to family and relationships, even creativity and art, and worse, the ways in which I convinced myself that those thick and thorny crops shouldn't be weeded and burned, but fed and cultivated, because I thought they would protect me.

How very untrue. I've sustained more self-inflicted injury from the things I've let take root, than the original wound ever caused.

One of the projects I'm working on is a gift. I'll have to wait a bit to show finished pictures, but the colors were so lovely I couldn't help taking some pictures of the before pile. I sat and stitched, and chewed on what to do with my many pieces...of self as much as material.

The thread followed the needle. In, through, over, up.

The thought followed the thread. Which voice am I attuning, I wondered. Loss; my mother, the dark road with my father, the distance to my sister and friends, the children I do not have? Or my Heavenly Father, who orders my steps? Who first made the desire to be a mother to the orphan burn in my heart? Who designed me to burn creatively? Who whispers words of hunger for building a nourishing home to my heart?

Practicing my French Knot stitch

In. Through. Over. Up.

I remember The Kid, whom I loved, but who wasn't mine and how scalded I felt at the end of that time. I think of all of my study and experience with the effects of childhood trauma on a person's ability to attach and build trusted relationships. Hard things even when they're just for a season. How much harder when its for a whole life? I cringe. 

In. Through. Over. Up.

I want a family. Children who call me mama, who love and trust me. Who do not belong to someone else in their hearts.

In. Through. Over. Up.

But these children, the ones we're pursuing...they will belong to someone else in their hearts. Maybe forever, in some ways. But in my heart, I hear a gentle rebuttal. You want a that wants you. Don't you think they want a family just as much? Someone who will love them first? Who will love them most? Is giving your life to these children so much harder than giving a son to the cross? Is it asking so much more?

Is your life about what you want or what you're made for?

And do you even trust that the one who loves your soul will be faithful to honor your obedience, to heal your wounded, to cause your family to bear good fruit?

Or would you rather be in control? Do you have the answer? How is that serving you, so far?

In. Through. Over. Up.

In. Through. Over. Up.

In. Through. Over. Up.

I sit and stitch in stubborn silence for a while. My heart bears Jonah's brand, and I realize I've spent months in the belly of the whale.

But I can't ignore the truth. The truth is that while I'm busy trying to control things so I don't get hurt, the one who made me and loves me is busy gently pulling at the thorns and weeds that I'm so fervently trying to harbor. And when I stand stubbornly in the way of his hands, like a defiant child, he begins to softly show me why I wouldn't want to keep those silly things anyway.  I think, If I can trust him not to be harsh with me in spite of my foolishness, if I can trust him to see to it that I continue to come back to what he made me for, despite my recalcitrant ways, couldn't I trust him with my family? Couldn't I trust him with my art? I could maybe...just pull the weeds and plant the things he's showing me, instead.

Slowly...thoughtfully... the thread runs. In.....through.....over.....up....

I could plant children in our lives. I could stop chasing things I'm not made for. I could answer the call to build this home that is the vision in my head every time I close my eyes. I could stop worrying so much about growing my things, and just be willing to incubate the seeds that He provides me with.

My mother once taught about the design of a woman. My favorite thing that she said was this; a woman, by design, is an incubator. She'll take what you give her and she'll nurture and nourish it and cause it to grow. Mom said that we do this with ideas, with words, with homes and even with life, itself.  She described how we often do this for the dreams of our husbands. They confide them in us and then we help incubate those things, encouraging and feeding them, adding our strength and faith to them, and in so doing contribute to our husband's efforts. We do this for our children and our sisters and our friends, if we let ourselves. If we don't buy the lie that this trait makes us somehow less.

I find myself grabbing at the scraggly stems of fear and selfishness, of doubt and pride. I grab and I pull. Some come out more easily than others. The pride of needing to control it isn't so hard. I've known my Father long enough to know I can trust him. That one I had only lost sight of. The fear though, has deep roots and big thorns and when I grab for it, it bloodies my hands me and makes me even more afraid.

But beyond this hedge of foolishness and fear, I see the promised land.

Children who are given a place to be healthy and whole and loved. Fruit trees and honey bees, clothes out on the line. A place where we tend the garden and in return it nourishes us, where we work and rest and thrive. Where there is black earth and strong trees, and where our table is laid with with plenty and our hearts are abundant with thanks. Doorposts which are the borders to comfort and peace and unconditional love, and everyone knows that they only need pass through to find such succor.

I tear fervently at the weeds as I stitch. I feel my Father alongside of me, tending my hands, restoring the ground. I know this work will take time. I know there's still a season of wilderness before I get there. But I think the work has begun.

In. I believe. Through. I trust. Over. I choose. Up. I remember.