When You're Feeling Ragged and Worn Through

I learn to knit because I am afraid.

It's a day in early January and I've put off the learning for 13 months and I've finally decided that the only way to be brave is to choose to be brave.

Because I'm this woman born under a cloud of terror, and I'm still figuring it out, how to really live when you're afraid of failing, afraid of rejection, afraid of being who you are.  Maybe the only thing I've figured out is this--there's no once-for-all cure for the broken place of a soul, only the daily choice to keep fighting for the life God has for us.

And maybe this, too--that Fear doesn't go away when you hide it in the closet.

No, the only way to send Fear packing its bags is to pull it right out into The Light, look it square in the eye, and do the very thing that Fear's declared we can't.

So I pick up the needles and I teach myself to knit and purl, cast on and bind off.  Because the path of a courageous life, it's made up of a million little steps into a million little fears.  And maybe no one understands how learning to knit can teach a soul to live.

Maybe I don't understand it either.

But God's this crazy pursuer Who pries open the eyes of the blind, and me, I'm the blind one more often than I'm not.

Is it any real mystery, then, that I've no idea what He's doing when I meet a woman in February who will show me how knitting can change a life?

Bernadette and I, we meet in the most impossible way--me clicking randomly and her writing soul poetry on a page of the big wide world.  I'm captured and I'm held from that first happenstance reading of her words, and we exchange comments and emails and prayers.

Mostly, we exchange hearts.

And we both know it without one bit of uncertainty that God's behind all this Grace, and how can we doubt the extravagance of His love when He's given us both a soul sister we never knew we had?

Yes.  We might be 817 miles apart and we might have spent a few decades without knowing who we were missing.  But we know it now.  We are sisters who've been found at last.

It's a day in July when I decide there's only one way to send my love across all those state lines.  So I pick out the loveliest yarn, soft and delicate and perfectly blue, and I pick up my needles and I do the impossible.

I learn to knit lace.

It's only my third time knitting and everyone thinks I'm a bit out of my mind and I do have to rip it out at least a dozen times in that first week.

But I keep at it for five long months and every stitch becomes this labor in love, knitting yarn into beauty with patience and prayer and mostly just this straight-up stubborn persistence.  And it really is the most beautiful thing I've ever created.

But I'm still this woman oblivious to what God's about to do and it's not until I wrap up my love and send this blue lace across 817 miles that I see what He's been trying to tell me all this time.

Because Bernadette, she holds my love in her hands and she writes the poetry of us and she points me straight to this:  It's the holes in the lace that let all the light shine through.

It's the holes in the lace that make it beautiful.

I'm this foolish woman who learns to knit because she is tired of being afraid.  And God, He's the patient One Who bides His time and waits quietly to reveal this one thing:

I might feel ragged and worn through, all the struggles of a life chipping away at the beauty of a soul.  But I think maybe I'm really these endless tangled threads, and the needles of adversity and loss, they bore clean through me.  I might be left with all these aching empty spaces, but God, He's the One holding the needles and He's knitting me into lace.

And when I'm held up to the Light, the beauty of what He's done might just bring us all to our knees.

Yes.  This year's been about letting go, about loss, about leaning hard into God when everything else is being stripped away.

But maybe underneath all that it's really been about this--God emptying me out in the most beautiful way, His pattern emerging from all the heartache, and me becoming lace, knit together in the hands of a good God.

Yes.  I think it's really true.  All of us, we're being made into lace, knit together in the hands of the good God.

And He makes all things beautiful in their time.

Project Details
Pattern:  "Red Pepper" by Tanja Pessina, Free Download on Ravelry.com 
Yarn:  Cascade Yarns Alpaca Lace (100% Baby Alpaca), Color 1432 Sapphire Heather
Needles:  Size 7


  1. What a revelation - it's the holes that make it beautiful - our imperfections that show how God comes through and fills the emptiness, making us into what we cannot be with Him...thank you friend.

    1. @Rachel: And maybe this, too--that not everything we see as an imperfection is really that. I've often pictured myself as the jar of clay, with holes punched out all jagged and unlovely, Christ's Light coming through and overshadowing all my ugliness. But I think we're more than that--we are fragile and broken, but He is making us into beauty. And when His Light shines through, we are not overshadowed--we are revealed as image-bearers of God.

  2. Oh, Friend...you honor me, and your love wraps all around me. I am with out words. Fortunately for me, you speak the language of my heart so that's not a big deal now is it? I'll send you a picture of the loveliest thing you've ever created...and the loveliest thing I own. (Wrapped clean around me even as I type this!) How the holes in our hearts make us holy. For that, we are thankful, Lord.

    1. @Bernadette: Oh, I can't wait to see my love wrapped around you! It comforts my heart to know that you are covered in love when I am so far away and cannot be there to help carry the burdens you are bearing right now. "How the holes in our hearts make us holy." Yes. YES. So very grateful we've been found.

  3. *So* beautiful!! It boggles my mind that this was your third knitting project. The thoughts are beautiful, too, but that lace is quite stunning.

    Yes, it is the holes that make life and lace beautiful, although so often it seems like we're looking at the back of Corrie ten Boom's embroidery instead of lace-in-progress. We will see the beauty someday.

    You probably know this already, but Psalm 139:13 says, in many of the translations, "For it was You who created my inward parts; You knit me together in my mother’s womb." I love that use of the word "knit." So vivid. I often think of that when stitching a baby blanket.

    Grace, mercy, and peace to you, friend!

    1. @tinuviel: Thank you, Friend, for kind words. There was only one stitch in the pattern that gave me quite a challenge to conquer--the rest was really a matter of getting used to working with yarn so fine. I'm kind of addicted to lace patterns now--they are just so beautiful!

      Yes, I think it is like looking at the back side of the project, or maybe just viewing it from too close--it's hard to get enough perspective on the holes in our hearts and the holes in our lives to see the overall pattern emerging. And as you wrote recently on the subject of Christ being born in us, the pattern that's emerging in all of us, as children of the King, is the image of Christ. And really, who of us can comprehend the magnitude of such an image?

      Psalm 139:13 means so much more to me now that I've learned to knit. And as you've said before, God didn't drop any stitches, even if it feels like it sometimes.

      Sending grace right back your way, Friend!

  4. hi Courtney,

    at last, a chance to catch my breath from the crush of end-of-semester work, and catch up with your blog...

    beautiful lace, beautiful post! you say, "i learn to knit because i am afraid", but i think the lace manifests how brave you are. that's not to deny that you're afraid of the things you say you're still afraid of (failing, rejection, being who you are). but i don't think courage is to fear as, say, hope is to despair. someone cannot be hopeful, despite her despair, but someone can be courageous, despite her fear. indeed, if the fear is greater, the courage is greater, as long as the person "keeps on keeping on", as you did, in the face of fear, with "patience, prayer, and stubborn persistence". as you say, a courageous life is precisely a life "made up of a million little steps into a million little fears".

    which is not to say that in the end, perfect love will not cast out all our fears. and i hope that, when you were close enough to the end of the knitting project that you knew it was going to be the most beautiful thing you'd ever made,it gave you a tangible sense of what that will be like...


    1. @chris: Happy to hear you've survived another semester and are coming up for air, at least for a little while.

      It's funny because I wrote that sentence about the courageous life and *still* failed to really make that connection--that the courageous life is not the one without fear but the one in which a person chooses to face the fears and work through them. Thank you for lifting my eyes up to the Truth. I have always been a fearful person but perhaps that means I am also a brave person, one who knows what it is to be afraid but who keeps making the hard choice to walk right into those fears.

      Thank you, as usual, for wise words here. You continue to be a gift to me and I am so grateful. Much Grace to you, Friend!


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