Of Linen and Grace

Sewing is one of my escapes.

I lock myself in my little room, turn on the machine, and wait for the machine foot to lurch to the side, indicating that it’s ready to go.

I start a lot of projects, and anyone who knows me will tell you that I finish about 1/10th of them. I don’t know. I guess they’re just better when they stay in my mind and the needle hasn’t pierced them poorly yet.

So they pile up and stare at me, taunting me with my own inadequacy.

Scraps lie all around the floor-some from an old baby dress I got halfway through and others from a quilt I have determined to finish before Christmas. They blend together in a hazy stack of discarded odds and ends, and I realize it’s been far too long since I cleaned the floor.

Ellie walks in and sees my hands grabbing anxiously at the colors and she looks concerned.

You aren’t throwing those away, are you? She asks.

Yeah, babe. They’re just the leftovers. She winces at my response.

Well, can I just keep them then? She asks. I nod, feeling a familiar sense of guilt run through my body.

It’s just been one of those days where my failures are shouting louder than my successes, and I’m convinced I’ve let them down. I don’t pray over them every night the way I should. I get distracted when I should be focused on conversation. I anger easily and form my own opinions before letting them speak their minds. I am quick to hush them and slow to spill grace.

I am the mom who leaves scraps instead of what should have been, and it’s eating me alive.

I see her scrambling and tears come to my eyes. I don’t even know how to verbalize it to her, because it is so profound a realization that all I can do is watch, my arms clinging to my elbows as I blink away my sadness.

What have I done?

That’s from a dress I started for you, Ellie. I manage.

She looks up at me and sees that I’m red-faced and broken hearted, and she comes to me with the fabric in her hand.

Mommy, I don’t need to take them… She starts. But I shake my head side-to-side. No, I assure her. They are yours. But you should be wearing it and not scraping from the carpet, I mumble. I explain that I’m just thinking and it satisfies her enough to go back to the gathering.

We do this, you know. We have great plans, grand ideas of mothering and care-taking and preparing a child for life, and at the end of many days we just feel like we’ve left it in pieces. What’s here for them to take is not near enough, we say. And we cry because we wish we had done it better.

We wish our fingers always zipped and buttoned the completed gown instead of staring at the remainders of our dreams for them.

It stays with me, this image. And in the middle of the night, for many nights to come, I will awake with her in my thoughts. She is kneeling, desperate, hungry for more than my gift to her. And I cry more than I remember crying in years.

It will be better, I tell her.

But she doesn’t know what I mean by that. She nods so I will wipe my eyes and make her feel like I’m okay, but she doesn’t understand my brokenness or my choppy words as I try to make right what she doesn’t realize is wrong.

I’m gone this weekend, I tell her. But I will be home.

I will always come home to you, Ellie.

It’s just that I have to do my job and it’s what the Lord has for me, and I want to be obedient and good and…does she hear me?

She is nodding and smiling and happy and I don’t know why because it’s all a mess, but I have no choice but to leave it be for now. I pack, I pray, and I drive away from the house and family I love so much, and I leave them the pieces again.

I feel the Lord’s peace as I go, though. And it doesn’t make sense to me but in a way I know He is saying, “Leave it to Me, love.” And so I do.

Two days pass and I come home to a clean house and a candle burning and I realize all the gaps that have been filled in my absence. The kids are joyful, eager to see me but not destroyed by the distance.

I give hugs and little airport gifts and we laugh and tickle and hope together for a few minutes and then I go to take a hot shower and wash the fear away again.

I stop cold in front of my sewing room.

The door is cracked and the light is on, so I push it open and I see a child-sized chair piled high with scraps.

They’ve been organized by color and size, and I realize there is more than I knew there was.

It’s enough to make something, I think.

And the tears come again, because I realize that in all the things I thought were failures, my love gave them something to take with them even if I never got it exactly right.

She tells me her plans for them, and I know it will be a more spectacular piece than anything I could have hemmed and ironed.

I’m giving her the pieces she needs-exactly the pieces she needs-to make her life an offering to the Lord.

She didn’t need the dress.

She needed the mother who gave her enough to sew something beautiful of her own.

What I thought was trash-what I thought was the remnant of my own mistakes-has become the fiber of her creation, and I stand in awe already of the way she has begun to join them together.

And so my prayer has changed.

I don’t spend more time worrying about what I don’t give them than I do praising Him for what He allows me to give them.

I am not their God, I am their mother. 

And they don’t need homemade clothes as much as they need to know how to sew life.

We give them more than we realize we do, and every time we step in obedience, we hand them more and more to string together in His name. They know I’m afraid of flying, afraid of speaking in public, and afraid of failing those around me. But they see the doorknob turn and they know that I’m stitching as well.

It’s more than we realize, this obedience.

It’s more than we realize, these slivers of linen and grace.

And God-willing, they will grow to love the needle as I do, and they will smile one day as their own children gather what’s left at their feet.

It is exquisite, this pieced-together faith.

And thanks be to the God of grace, I am finding it is more than enough.

 


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  • Crystal Kemp

    Absolutely beautiful!

  • bluegoose

    Oh.My.Word…….so fitting!! My own girls are grown now, the oldest recently moved into her very own apartment, the youngest is planning a spring wedding. I know beyond knowing that God raised my girls – ours is a ‘broken home’, we are still married and enjoy life together but he wasn’t a Dad and my girls struggle with that still – and He continually reminds me that when I begin down a street of regret that my girls have more of me than they need, what they need is Him to fill in those broken places!
    Thank you so much for putting in such eloquent words and remind me why I so loved raising my girls……they are more than half of my heart and I’m so thankful that I was given the privilege of Mothering them!!!

  • Bethany

    I’m not a mama (yet – still waiting on my fellow to walk into my world), but I just had to share your words on FB with my mama friends. You speak eloquently of what many mamas must feel – and how I imagine I would feel if I were someone’s mother. Thank you.

  • Coby

    “I am not their God, I am their mother…every time we step in obedience we hand them more and more to string together in His name.” These words resonate deeply with me today as I am learning to hold my children with an open hand and entrust their future to the Lord. I think I can control everything – if I find just the right homeschool curriculum, the right children’s devotional, the right “parenting formula,” then I am guaranteed children who grow up to be “perfect Christians” (as IF!). But it’s not ME who saves them and draws them into a life in Christ, it’s the Lord! Thanks for being transparent. Blessings!

  • Kim

    “We give them more than we realize we do, and every time we step in obedience, we hand them more and more to string together in His name.”
    I needed to hear this today! thank you Angie!

  • Angie Purdy Wood

    So good and timely for me! Thank you for sharing your heart.

  • BFGOmelissa

    I love this, Angie. I am regularly disappointed by what I fail to do what I meant to do for my kids. And they are constant reminders that my love is often enough. I’m harder on myself and they are rarely hard on me at all. I relish what the Lord teaches me in mothering – and the way He uses others to reflect.

  • http://ashleywb.blogspot.com AshleyB

    “I anger easily and form my own opinions before letting them speak their minds. I am quick to hush them and slow to spill grace.”
    Gracious Angie. That is the lesson I’m repetitively learning and vowing to take to heart day after day. Thank you for the wisdom and Truth.
    Ash

    • Ashli

      Two Middle schoolers. It’s a rare day when I feel like I’ve used my materials wisely. I try to speak encouragement and love into those soulful eyes, because I know that at school they hear more bad than good.
      “The struggle” to quote my daughter’s favorite saying when things just aren’t going right. Some days I find myself pushing my will on them so strongly, and I hate myself for it later. It’s so hard to navigate these waters, even WITH God.
      Thank you for sharing your sewing room with us…

  • Bethany @3SonsPlus1…and

    As I sit here trying to formulate a response, I realize I’ve been rendered speechless (a near impossible feat, I tell you!). This really hit home today…thank you!

  • Jackie

    My babies are now 20 & 22 and I wish I could go back to when they were little knowing what I know now. I was always so worried about the details being just right and I forgot to enjoy the moment. I wish I had read something like this then. Thank you for your gift of ministering to women (young moms especially). I’ve had the pleasure of listening to you at several WOF gatherings and you are a blessing to so many <3

  • http://katemcraig.blogspot.com katecraig

    I am not their God, I am their mother. —- !!!!!! wow

  • Kasey

    I am printing this off and slipping it into my Bible so I can re-read it often. There is so much truth in this that tears have flooded my face to the point that I can barely see these letters I’m typing. Thank you so much for these words…. They touch my heart deeply and in a way I desperately needed. And let me also say HOW MUCH your sacrifice is APPRECIATED as you travel and speak to us women who literally grow closer to our Lord as a result. So grateful for your willingness to used as a vessel in such a way…. Thank you a million times over.

  • http://maryellen-abundantblessings.blogspot.com/ Maryellen

    Oh my goodness that was simply beautiful . . .

  • Kim@onerebelheart

    Oh boy did I need this today! After a level 5 meltdown that left me absolutely sure of nothing except that I’m not sure of anything anymore where my 9 year old is concerned, these words are a balm to my soul. “I am not their God, I am their mother.” That is something that I can hold onto when things fall apart around me.

  • http://sarahhisprincess.blogspot.com/ sarahmoseley

    Beautiful. I’m not a mom, and yet your writing still touches me every time. Thank you.

  • megan

    so beautiful. I love this so much.

  • Emily

    Thank you for these absolutely beautiful words inspired and timely!

  • Zenya Peterson

    Thank you Angie. I needed these words so badly tonight. :)

  • http://martysmoosetracks.blogspot.com/ Marty

    Bless you, Angie. You captured exactly the feelings of all Moms who are just trying to do their best with God’s guidance and help. You might feel like you’re a mess with your sewing projects, but you sew words together perfectly.

  • amands

    Striking words that made me stop& pray myself- I am not their God, I am their mother. Thanks for the reminder.

  • citychick176

    Although I don’t have kids of my own yet, I am a teacher and so I feel like a parent to the 25 kids in my class.

    But THIS: “It’s just been one of those days where my failures are shouting louder than my successes, and I’m convinced I’ve let them down. I don’t pray over them every night the way I should. I get distracted when I should be focused on conversation. I anger easily and form my own opinions before letting them speak their minds. I am quick to hush them and slow to spill grace.”

    That is EXACTLY how I feel this week. It’s almost the end of the year (I live in Australia so we finish in December) and I feel like there’s so much I wanted to do with them, so much I’ve missed out on doing with them because of distractions, frustration, and all the rest. I definitely think that my failures have shouted louder than my successes this week. I SO get you there. Those sentences are me. Thank you for putting into words what I was feeling!

  • http://www.permissiontoperuse.com/ Amy Bennett

    *tears* That was just beautiful, Angie. We’re so prone to concentrate on our failures instead of praise God for the successes. Thank you for this reminder!

  • http://livingthelifefantastic.com/ Karla Archer

    I desperately needed this today… thank you.

  • Patcine

    Love this. Very well said and oh so relatable for all of us moms!

  • Gretchen

    Yes. As with your other commenters, I stand grateful and arm in arm, praising the God who gathers our broken pieces and scraps of faith and makes them beautiful in His way and timing. Blessings.

  • His Girl Amber

    This just took my breath away. Sometimes I think my children get just slivers of good intentions and scraps of great ideas. I worry that it’s not enough to nourish and grow great people. Thank you for the reminders and the perspective…and even for the snotty cry.

  • Casey Springer

    I was on Pinterest last night and saw so many quilt ideas and couldn’t stop thinking about your post. It is amazing how much we learn from our girls.

  • sunnymolls

    It’s amazing how the gaps are filled and I love remembering “I am not their god, I am their mother.”

  • Krystal Schamberger

    I lost my Mama in July to cancer and she used to sew such beautiful clothes for my sisters and I when we were little, your blog made me miss her so much but it warmed my heart at the same time. I remember sitting at her feet playing with the scraps and trying to wrap the pieces around my dolls, or wondering if there was enough left over for a doll dress or a head band to match my new dress. Oh dear Jesus I miss her more than anything.

  • Annie Buck

    God bless you. I can’t tell you how this beautiful post touched me. My kids are older teenagers, and I feel that I have failed them in so many ways. Your post today has given me grace. I am NOT their God, I am the mom God gave them, and that strengthens me. Thank you, thank you. Your children are blessed to have such a wise parent.

  • http://www.bettythomasonowens.com/ Betty Owens

    I was reminded only yesterday, how important are my prayers for my children and grandchildren. Thankfully, this dire situation was handled quickly; the outcome good. Have I remembered to pray daily? Not like I should. I’m glad we have a God who cares enough to overlook our unfinished business and see us finished and complete.

  • http://beandkeepbeing.blogspot.com/ Jenny Barker

    Wow. This post is just so beautiful, Angie. I’m amazed at the vulnerability and strength of your words. You painted such a rich and precious picture of God’s grace and provision. “I am not their God. I am their mother.” Such power and truth in those words. The greatest gift we can give our children is to point them to Jesus. They need him more, much more, than they need us. Thanks for sharing your heart. Blessings…

  • http://sarahsandel.com/ stsandel

    sigh. thanks for this. i teared up & realized that sometimes it is enough to be a mess, because i serve One with a record of making them worth something.

  • pastordt

    Holey moley. Months without hearing from you ( subscriptions are weird) and then THIS GLORY. Just magnificent, Angie. In every single way I can think of. Thank you so much. Sharing this one tonight.

  • Carisa

    Perfect timing. Just. Beautiful.

  • http://tuningmyhearttopraise.blogspot.com/ ro elliott

    This is beautiful…as I launched my now adults ….the enemy was there to accuse me…should/shame me…all the not enoughs…but God spoke clear….I have Grace for the gaps …and yes…we realize we are not their God…and those gaps we leave….leaves room for God’s love to come and fill them up. What a sweet gift to see this as a young mom. Blessings and grace to you~

  • Lisa Harrison

    My young adult daughter sent me this post, because she knows I feel just this way. Like I failed in so many ways with her and her brother. But I am so thankful for a faithful God who has taken my scraps and made something beautiful in their lives. Thank you for the reminder that my time is better spent praising God for His grace than wasting time in regrets.

  • Amber

    Speaking straight to my mommy heart this morning. I often end each day thinking I failed miserably at this job God has so graciously given me. Then I overhear my sweet boy kindly stop and correct his little sister with such sweet, loving words, and I say a quick prayer that I am speaking to them with that same love and gentleness. I so want them to see Jesus through me and I often feel my own selfish desires come through instead. I take comfort in the fact that God can work in their hearts and guide their lives despite me. Thank you for being vulnerable, open, and honest.

  • http://sojensparks.blogspot.com/ Jen

    “It’s just been one of those days where my failures are shouting louder than my successes, and I’m convinced I’ve let them down. I don’t pray over them every night the way I should. I get distracted when I should be focused on conversation. I anger easily and form my own opinions before letting them speak their minds. I am quick to hush them and slow to spill grace.”

    For me, it’s been oh… 13 of those years. *sigh* Lisa-Jo posted a clip on fb the other day, where they asked all the mums how they perceived themselves as mothers, and then had them sit down and listen to what their kids actually thought about them. I have so many issues that the thing I thought when I turned it off was “my kids would never say things like that.” I didn’t miss the point of it, I just know how large my failings are.

    Thanks for this post. I’m so glad we have a big God who has it all under control and loves our babies even more than we do. It gives me hope mine won’t all end up in therapy.

  • amyfritz

    This is life-giving. Thank you.

  • Rebecca

    As I sit in a hotel room miles away from my loves, I finally had a few minutes to read this post. And it was certainly God’s timing. I struggle so much with the gaps and the scraps, and work that sometimes require travel…that I miss what He allows me to give them each day. “I am not their God, I am their mother.”
    Thank you for your words.

  • Karen

    My husband and I talk about this exact thing often. Feeling like we are not doing enough, wanting to do more for them, worrying more about our own inadequacies rather than what we ARE giving Josh. We want to be God for Josh, if we’re honest, because we feel that’s the safest way to usher him into this harsh world. But we are only Mom and Dad, and sometimes the best we can do is to give them the best of what we have and let God put all the pieces together. You are right, it will be far more beautiful than anything we could’ve ever created on our own. Thank you so much for your words and transparency

  • MG

    Forgive me, I really am not saying this in a judgmental way. I’m not trying to be a “know-it-all” or claim that mothers should NEVER do anything outside of the home. Not at all. I know you said you felt peace as you drove away, so maybe that’s enough. But, it’s been a passion of mine for mother’s to feel as though their children ARE their ministry. Maybe if you’re feel some UN-easiness, there’s more going on? I know, this was not the point of your post. It was beautiful and I teared up through much of it because I feel the same way. I really thank you for all you do and share with us. If I’m way off base, please feel free to ignore me!

    • Sherry

      I actually don’t think it matters whether you work outside the home or not. I was a stay-at-home mom full time for 10 years, and still felt like I wasn’t giving my children all that they needed. I too have the remnants of projects not completed, the guilt over not enough prayers or bible stories, the memory of the many times I brushed them aside when they wanted my attention and I just needed a little peace… I think all good mothers feel like failures sometimes, since none of us is perfect no matter how much we want or try to be. But our Father God is perfect and we need to trust His leading. I know from having read Angie’s blog for several years that the ministry she does pulls her from her comfort zone rather reluctantly, but it is something she has wrestled with and feels she has been called by God to do.

      I love these lines: “I realize all the gaps that have been filled in my absence. The kids are joyful, eager to see me but not destroyed by the distance.” And they see their mother trying to live her life in obedience to God’s call. What better example can we all try to set for our children?

    • Margo

      I don’t see this post as her struggle with leaving for her “job”. I see this post as a struggle Angie has within her…of never being good enough, not giving her children what she thinks she’s failing at…and God speaks to her when she returns that she HAS given them enough…what they need. I see also that He calms her many fears always by taking her out of her safe places…and guiding her through the dark valleys. She’s being a beautiful, faithful servant, and she is blessing many along her way. Thank you Angie, for listening to Him and following His leading. You are so loved!

  • Elizabeth

    I’m not a mother and probably won’t be one for a long time. But I wanted you to know that I completely relate to the feeling of inadequacy. I’m also not a seamstress but I do know what it means to have scraps of unfinished projects all over my life. The Lord used this post to remind me that my inadequacies and my weaknesses are the perfect place for His glory to shine. Thank you for your willingness to share so beautifully what the Lord placed on your heart.

  • Judy

    “It’s just been one of those days where my failures are shouting louder than my successes, and I’m convinced I’ve let them down. I don’t pray over them every night the way I should. I get distracted when I should be focused on conversation. I anger easily and form my own opinions before letting them speak their minds. I am quick to hush them and slow to spill grace.”

    My children are 37, 33 and 31 and I still feel these kinds of feelings about my “performance” as a mom when they were growing up. Somehow, I hold myself accountable for all of their issues and problems, even though they are adults, making their own way in the world. Hoping that all my unfinished projects and scraps can somehow be made into something useful, perhaps even beautiful in their lives.

  • Erin

    This is just beautiful. Thank you. Thank you for the reminder that our obedience is more than we realize.

    Your post reminds me of a prayer I came across a few years ago. I wish I could remember the source. I’m almost certain that it came from something I read by Dr. Dobson. He says, “Lord, You know my inadequacies. You know my weaknesses, not only in parenting, but in every area of my life. I’m doing the best I can to raise my kids properly, but it may not be good enough. As You provided the fish and the loaves to feed the five thousand hungry people, now take my meager effort [my scraps of linen!] and use it to bless my family. Make up for the things I do wrong. Satisfy the needs that I have not met. Compensate for my blunders and mistakes. Wrap Your great arms around my children and draw them close to You. And be there when they stand at the great crossroads between right and wrong. All I can give them is my best, and I will continue to do that. I submit them to You now and rededicate myself to the task You have placed before me. The outcome rests securely in Your hands.” Amen! Teach them to sew, Lord.

  • Karen

    “You know, the whole thing about perfectionism. The perfectionism is very dangerous, because of course if your fidelity to perfectionism is too high, you never do anything. Because doing anything results in– It’s actually kind of tragic because it means you sacrifice how gorgeous and perfect it is in your head for what it really is.” Quote from David Wallace

    Interesting concept. Do we let our perfectionism control us? Maybe you could write about this. You are a perfect writer : )

  • Becky

    I struggle with wanting to have a “do over” for parts of my single parenting years of my now adult children. But this morning my heart was heavy for the so deep and never ending needs of the precious children in my classroom. You post really helped me.

    I’m not failing and want to stop that thinking and instead focus on your point of praising God for His call on my life to join Him. I can’t change the brokenness in their lives, but I pray I’m present each and every moment with them to hear His directives for me.

  • Julie @ Wife, Mother, Gardener

    Thank you for sharing this… I am there too, everyday. Resting in God’s grace to make it all beautiful in the end.

  • trustinggodathome

    Tears. So resonates with my heart. What a faithful God we serve to bring beauty out of our weakness and fallenness.

  • Pamela

    I think we as mothers remember so much more than our children. All those mistakes they cover with love and that grace extended is the stuffing between the garment of their childhood and the lining of their adult lives. The just don’t see it and that makes me so thankful.

  • http://www.amylearns.com/ Amy Tilson

    Thank you for these words I didn’t even realize I needed to hear tonight.

  • Katie

    “I am quick to hush them and slow to spill Grace.” Can so relate to this. Our Father is so very merciful and loving to us. Want to commend a book that ministered greatly to my heart: The Beauty of Broken, by Elisa Morgan. Thank you Angie for sharing so deeply! Gratefully, Katie

  • Rebecca

    I love your writing, and I was in tears yesterday over the same thing. I’m glad I’m not the only one, and I know I remember all the good things about my mum, and few of the bad.

  • robyn

    Motherhood makes us brave. Jesus washes the fear away and leaves more of Himself there. Lovely words, Angie. Thank you.

  • Heather

    Beautiful

  • Patti S.

    This is simply beautiful. So very glad Jesus turns all our crumbs into something beautiful.
    Also, so very thankful it is not about what we do, it is about how we love….all in the name of Jesus. May you continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

  • Katie Shannon

    This is beautiful.