Columns, Grace Notes

Knit together

I learned how to knit two years ago, taught by participants in one of the two knitting groups that gather regularly as a ministry of the congregation where I am a member. Those knitters primarily make prayer shawls and scarves. Recipients chosen to receive the prayer shawls have included people living with a serious illness or negotiating through a period of transition, such as the birth of a child or the end of a relationship. The scarves are given to an organization that serves homeless people, to be distributed to members of that community to provide them with a bit of warmth that they might otherwise do without.

I had one very simple requirement when I learned to knit. I did not want to learn a skill that might prove to be frustrating — learning how to cast on and bind off was as challenging as I wanted things to get. I haven’t devoted any time to learning how to decrease, increase, measure gauge, or learn the meaning of the secret code in which the instructions for a knitted piece of apparel are written. I haven’t even attempted a purl stitch.

When I was knitting healing thoughts and prayers into the purple shawl, I had no idea to whom it would be given, or what the recipient’s circumstance would be.

That’s why making a prayer shawl was the perfect project for me to start off on. After knitting a few practice swatches, in mid-summer 2008 I chose a yarn that was shades of purple, cast on, and started knitting a prayer shawl.

The seasons passed, and the size of the shawl grew. By the end of summer 2009, the shawl was essentially completed, except for the need to bind it off and fringe it. This, to me, didn’t sound like as much fun as knitting the shawl had been. The 5-foot long shawl lay in a bag for weeks, waiting for me to get inspired to do the necessary work to complete it.

Weaving a web of future healing

A few days before Christmas, I received a phone call from the office secretary at my congregation. Roxy was phoning to tell me that the congregation would like to give a prayer shawl to my daughter Britt. She had recently been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and was to begin chemotherapy before the start of the new year.

My mind jumped to the purple prayer shawl lying in a bag in my living room. For the first time, I realized I had made that shawl for Britt. Without hesitating, Roxy offered to take the shawl off the needles and fringe it. In no time at all, she had competed the shawl. On the day of Christmas Eve I retrieved it, packed it in my suitcase, and delivered it to Britt in California on Christmas Day.

When I was knitting healing thoughts and prayers into the purple shawl, I had no idea to whom it would be given, or what the recipient’s circumstance would be. The thought never occurred to me that Britt would receive the shawl, or the reason why she would.

Now, when I can’t physically be with Britt to wrap my arms around her, the shawl serves that purpose. It can shelter, enfold, and surround her and become a sanctuary of healing. And the kindness of friends can’t be overstated. Roxy’s generosity in offering to finish the shawl, then doing so in such a short amount of time, reminded me of that.

I’ve started knitting another prayer shawl, experiencing again the soothing rhythm of knit … knit … knit. The color of this yarn, named Prairie, shades from green to brown and back. (A friend quipped that I’m working on a Prayer-ie prayer shawl.)

I don’t know who will be the eventual recipient of this prayer shawl, any more than I knew, while I was knitting it, who would receive the first one I made. I do know that the prayers for healing that are being knit into it will be an important ingredient of the refuge, peace, and spiritual sustenance that it is meant to provide.

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