Advent Shawl CAL: Weeks Three & Four

It has occurred to me that in order for your shawl to be completed by Christmas Eve or Day, that I need to double up on the week’s instructions. So you will have both sets of instructions, for Week 3 and for Week 4, so that you can crochet as your time allows. Next Monday I will post the 5th and Final section along with the edging. That will give you the last week prior to Christmas to work on finishing your Shawl.

If you are familiar with an Advent Wreath, you will know that the candle for Week 3 is the Shepherd Candle and Week 4 is the Angel candle. I chose the “Grass” green for Week 3 to represent the fields in which the shepherds keep watch over their flocks by night. For Week 4 I chose the pale pink “Blossom” to represent the Angel Candle. Each stitch pattern is also thoughtfully chosen: a V-stitch pattern to represent the grass of the fields; the Crosshatch Stitch to represent the wings of an Angel. As always, the Tri-Color Transition is representing the three gifts of the Magi to the baby Jesus…gold, frankincense and myrrh.

I hope you are enjoying this Crochet-A-Long and that it is proving to be a meaningful and enjoyable “work” preparing you for Christmas Day. Below you will find my reflection for these two weeks. It may seem heavy, but I write out of my heart and where God is speaking to me in present time. May it bring encouragement to you in some way. Thank you for those of you who have left messages either here or on Facebook, or Instagram about your experience of crocheting this Shawl.

Click HERE to download the PDF of Instructions for Weeks 3 & 4.

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A dear friend of mine is at this moment struggling for breath in a cancer ICU. We typically think of the celebration of Advent as a happy and lighthearted time. It is not always so. Though I have known and been friends with her for 30+ years, I feel as if I’ve known her all my life. She and I both were dancers in our young girl years and I imagine we would have been BFF’s in dance class, working our plies, tandus, and pirouettes together. She has been valiantly battling esophageal cancer for 2 1/2 years, and it has been my privilege to walk alongside her, trying to keep in touch as best we can through it all.

We speak of Advent as an anticipation of Christ’s coming to us as a babe in a manger. Indeed it is just this. But we sometimes miss the fact that He comes to us in a multiplicity of ways. The entire Christmas story is rife with numerous ways God comes to His people: an Angel of the Lord comes to Mary to bring her the news that God is going to come to her, overshadow her, and birth in her His only Son. An army of God’s messengers come to the Shepherds in the field to announce the birth of Christ. God comes to Joseph in a dream to allay his fears and give instruction for the path ahead. God comes to the Three Kings in a dream to tell them to travel another way. In fact, the entirety of the Scriptures is an unfolding of all the ways God has come to us. Not the other way ’round.

I astonish myself with how I know this to be true, that the King of Heaven comes to His children, but I live as if I’m the one who has to reach, grasp, and work my way to God. There is not a single story in the Bible where people have successfully gotten themselves together, cleaned up their act, been nice enough, smart enough, wise enough, to achieve the status “made it to heaven.” In fact, usually their efforts to earn salvation or God’s approval go horribly wrong. But God…

He comes to us in Advent as a baby, because that is what we are…helpless, vulnerable, dependent babes. He does ALL the work of coming to save His own. He alone rescues. He alone provides. He alone comforts. He alone grants faith, grace, and mercy. He also comes to us in our death. We do not travel that lonely dreadful path alone. Soon He will reach out His hand to my friend and say those precious words…“Talitha, koum”. He will take her by the hand and say “Dear little one, get up and go with me into eternity! Breathe freely, plie, tandu and pirouette to your heart’s content! ” Yes, even in death, He comes to His own. Emmanuel. God. With. Us.

With grace in every stitch,

Jennifer

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The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.

Isaiah 9:2

Advent Shawl CAL: Week Two

I hope you’ve had a lovely week and that you were able to find some time to sit down and crochet. It is difficult to carve out time to be reflective and creative. My hope is that this will be an aid to that end and not just be one more thing on the ever growing list of stuff that needs to get done. Even though I have finished crocheting this Advent Shawl, I am sketching daily through Advent and knitting along, a few stitches a day, and finding it a good way to slow down a bit. If you are just joining in with our Advent Shawl Crochet-A-Long, here is Week One.

The stitch pattern this week is the Mesh Stitch. I chose this because all the little “boxes” it makes resembles a bustling city, buildings-upon-buildings all in a row or even stacked one on top of another as I imagine Bethlehem may have been. I hope you enjoy the simplicity of the stitch pattern and a repeat of the Tri-Color Transition. As always…please read through entire pattern carefully to understand what you will be doing and to familiarize yourself with terminology and special notes!

Click HERE to download the PDF for Week Two.

The following is the reflection for this week, which is a brief musing on Bethlehem. If you celebrate Advent with an advent wreath, you will know that the second Candle is the Bethlehem candle. I will not be reading this one out loud, as the time involved in uploading the audio is more than I have today. Perhaps next week will afford more time for this. 🙂

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Bethlehem. We know the story – Mary and Joseph had to travel to this central location to register for the census and upon arrival could not find any available rooms in the inns. They ended up being granted permission to stay in a stable. A barn. It’s hard to imagine how anyone could turn away a 9-month pregnant/close to delivery woman and her husband, and then tell them to go to the barn out back to stay the night, or two, or many.

Yet I myself do the same. How often is the pregnant and potent wonder of the gospel presented to me in humble and barely recognizable ways? How easily do I push that aside, relegating it to a corner area while I devote my attention to the pressing, the urgent, the magnanimous or glitzy? It is at Christmas time that I renew a resolve to go looking for Christ’s presence (and His presents) in all the humble, unassuming places in my life. He often abides in the smelly, not-so-tidy, earthy and uncomfortable events and circumstances that I try to run from or gloss over.

When I consider Bethlehem, I’m challenged to make room in my heart and life for Christ. To move aside all that clamors and clutters up the wonder of God in human form, a babe in a manger, and to make Him central. As I crochet and knit, as I draw on paper, I make space in may life for this wonder. I’m setting aside for just a little while the holiday to-do list and working the humble and unassuming stitches and lines so that I might see what He is doing in my life – making a dwelling place for Christ the Lord.

May He find us willing to let Him into the stable of our heart this advent season.

With grace in every stitch,

Jennifer

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“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.'”

Matthew 2:6/Micah 5:2

“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.”

Luke 2:1-7

Sister Letter :: An Aching Beauty

Dear Sister,

I sit with my own handspan wool in my hands, knitting it into an Elder Tree Shawl. There is frost on the ground and a crocheted afghan on my lap. All is quiet in the monastery. I am the only one up this day after Thanksgiving. We are full to the brim here with oldest daughter and her husband, middle son and his girlfriend from Texas and our dear youngest girl. We have feasted on food and laughter, family, games and a puzzle. Today we might just get a tree and decorate it.

But in these quiet moments I’m filled with something that can only be called joy, though it is dressed not in gaiety, though that is certainly part of it. There is also an ache. A fullness so full to overflowing it verges on overwhelm. I cannot contain it all. All. That is a huge word. For it contains all the memories of Thanksgivings throughout the years, of how life is changing, of where we have been, all that has happened in our little family, and even thoughts of what might be to come. I cannot hold all this. It hurts. And yet it is beautiful.

I have long been familiar with this kind of ache. The ache of longing and Beauty. I feel it when I spin wool and knit. I feel it when I put paint to paper. And at various times thoughout the days, sometimes hitting me with such force I name it “sadness” or “depression”. But really there’s joy behind it all, underneath it all, beribboned throughout it all. Joy has an element of ache…don’t you think so?

I believe this is what Mary was experiencing when she “treasured all these things in her heart.” She could not contain all the memories even of her young life, of her encounter with the Angel, of carrying a baby for 9 months even though she had not been with Joseph or any other man, of enduring the scorn of that, of the travel to Bethlehem, the pain of childbirth and now this…this wonder of wonders…a baby King, the Messiah whom she nursed and swaddled. Indeed I felt this aching beauty after the births of my own dear children who are now sleeping upstairs. The hopes and fears of all the years…yes, so many moments. So many fears. So many hopes.

It occurs to me as I write these words that help is contained in this beloved Christmas carol-

“the hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight.”

When I struggle to hold it all, to contain the memories, the hopes and fears, I can remember that I have One who can and does hold it all. That wee Christ child, God come to earth, carries all my, all our, hopes and fears. In Him, they are met and knitted into something exquisite, breathtaking.

I’m beginning to hear stirrings upstairs. Not the pitter patter of little feet as in days gone by. But the thumpity thump of teen/adult feet slowly starting to move. I shall sit here for as long as I can knitting my shawl with this achingly beautiful yarn. Joy in it all. Letting Christ hold it all!

Your sister,

Jennifer

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These letters are written to my knitting and crochet Sisters in the monastery of Life, where we long to live out the call of Christ to love others, live quiet lives and work with our hands. 1 Thessalonians 4:11.

Read here for the very first post & Letter.

Sister Letter :: Hospitality

Dear Sister,

The peregrinos are still here. I call our guests that to help me in the work of hospitality that I am so dreadful at offering. I’m imagining our monastery being visited by the pilgrims who walk the Camino de Compostela, for certainly that is what we all are: pilgrims in the land, walking the Way of Life. Can I not joyfully offer the gift of hospitality to those in need of bed and breakfast as they sojourn here for just a little while? I seem to be able to offer it, but joyfully is the issue at hand.

I’m nearing the end of knitting a stocking for my oldest daughter. I will then begin the stocking for her husband. This is an exciting project for me, as I adore the fair isle pattern with a bit of lacework at the top, trimmed in a beaded stitch. It is, in and of itself, a journey, a pilgrimage of stitches, walking through this glorified sock from cuff to heel to toe and back to knit the actual heel at the end. Then there will be weaving in ends and blocking, the less glamorous work albeit very necessary to the overall piece. Hospitality feels to me something like weaving in ends and blocking. Would that it felt more like the fanciful fair isle knitting. Perhaps our Father can work this in my heart, knitting a deeper love for service into my baskets of wool.

In meditation and prayer this morning, I was reminded that we are to remain in the present moment, enjoying all that God brings us right then and there. When I stay in this posture, I do enjoy our pilgrim hostel much more, finding beauty in faces and conversations. The minute I allow my thoughts to cling to all the stuff sitting around the house, the elevated noise level, the comings and goings, and a sense that I am responsible for all meals, etc…then I am in trouble, resenting the gift I have to offer…hospitality. I am a work in progress, just like my knitting projects. I am thankful that Christ is ever patient with me.

Do let me know how I can be praying for you. I continue to lift up those things which you have entrusted to my knowledge and I ask for His presence with you in each of those situations. May you have a couple of times today to rest and reflect on His love and care.

Your Sister,

Jennifer

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These letters are written to my knitting and crochet Sisters in the monastery of Life, where we long to live out the call of Christ to love others, live quiet lives and work with our hands. 1 Thessalonians 4:11.

Read here for the very first post & Letter.

Everyday Stitching

einsteinfish

If I could climb into each knitted stitch…there would be something there to learn.

weavingspring

If I could freeze a moment in the warp & weft of everyday living…I might be able to find what it feels like I am missing.

I want to be able to experience the same wonder and marvel at ordinary knit stitches, made over and over again, in my everyday tasks. Is it possible to approach laundry, meal prep, cleaning, errands, and all the myriad of things we do every single day, day in and day out, over and over, with the same stillness, calm, and enjoyment as the over/under of weaving?

I don’t know. I haven’t been able to master that. At all.

I’m reading a wondrous book. Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Warren, is a beautifully honest, life affirming litany of the mundane tasks we engage in every day. Her writing encourages me to remember that these same tasks, boring and never-ending as they are, have the opportunity to be oases from which to drink of the goodness God has for us.

Yes! Yes..this is what I long for. For many months now, I’ve been craving a more contemplative life. I long for this in my creative life as well…to make things slowly, carefully, with presence in body and purpose of mind and heart. I even daydream of living a type of monastic life filled with daily prayer, meditation, knitting, spinning, weaving.

It sounds idyllic. Well, to me it does. The thing is…I would still have meals to prepare. Cleanup afterwards. Laundry to do. Lightbulbs to replace. Repairing broken things. Upkeep and maintenance of everyday appliances. Etc. I’m actually quite spoiled in those latter few…my husband does most of the upkeep and maintenance around our home. And yet I still grumble about all the other stuff that seems to fill much of my days.

I’m in sore need, here at the beginning of a New Year, of reorienting my mind and heart to this truth:

“The crucible of our formation is in the anonymous monotony of our daily routines.” -Tish Warren

promiseofspring3

Like knitting the same stitch over and over and over again. Like running a thread over and under and over again. This is where beauty is wrought. I know this. I believe this.

Lord, help my unbelief.

The thing is, I’m a dreamer. I dream of grand things, of accomplishments, of revolutionary beauty being brought into the world. Tish Warren does too:

“I was, and remain, a Christian who longs for revolution, for things to be made new and whole in beautiful and big ways. But what I am slowly seeing is that you can’t get to the revolution without learning to do the dishes.” 

einsteincomplete

I won’t get to wear the sweater or give the knitted gift, until I’ve slogged through countless knit stitches. I won’t see a lovely tapestry until I’ve worked the over-under over and over again.

Yes. Today. Tomorrow. And on through 2017.

Knit my stitch. Weave my thread. Do my dishes.

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

Tedium & Beauty

PosyLove

A thought kept popping into my head:

“Golly this is tedious!”

Even though I was absorbed in the tiny stitches, the small bits of fabric, the sewing it all together…it nevertheless felt very fiddly and tedious. The amount of time it took to create this 2 1/2″ bit of beauty was, well….staggering!

And then it hit me:

Beauty is often wrought in tedium.

Handwork lovers of all kinds know this. Any who knit, crochet, embroider, quilt, smock, tat, etc…we know that something beautiful will result from the hours of tedium in intricate stitches.

Now if I can just remember this about life, I’ll be better off. So much of life can also feel tedious and fiddly. This week I’ve been reminding myself, when that “this is tedious!” thought crosses my mind – Beauty is afoot!

Where there’s tedium…there is beauty!

Wishing you a day of finding beauty in the tedium of your life.

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My skin-to-be-comfortable-in for my daughter’s upcoming wedding is progressing. I’m pleased thus far. Still more to go. But I haven’t had to rip anything out lately. Thankfully.