given on Sunday, January 11, 2009
I suppose you noticed the basket up here with me. I bet you are wondering what in the world “slow stashing” could possibly mean. Well, I wondered, too, what slow stashing was? The term “slow stash” appeared in my inbox. I subscribe to an internet magazine Knitters Review. This week’s posting began with this paragraph:
A core principle behind Slow Stashing is to rid your stash of unhappy yarns and only surround yourself with those yarns that make you happy. For the rest of this year I will show you yarns that make me happy—worthwhile yarns from hard-working people in interesting places around the world, yarns that I hope might make you happy too.
What an intriguing opening! I just had to take a few minutes and learn more. And I found that “slow stashing” is an invaluable principle that could be applied to life in general.
Now I hate resolutions. Here is it already almost two weeks into the new year and I find an article connected to resolutions. But, I love knitting and this principle just makes knitting turn into a philosophy for life. The question then becomes how does slow stashing relate to our faith? The connection is the word happy. Happy is connected to my faith in God.
Sometimes it is so easy to let life get in the way of hearing God. This week is one in which it could have so easily interfered with hearing God. We started a new semester at school, I had a COS paper due yesterday, and just family and home life details to include. Life has a way of getting in between God and us, and it makes us unhappy. I am good at stashing all the stuff of life in between God and me.
Now the Knitters Review appeared in my inbox on Thursday. That night as I read my final Guidepost devotion from which another message was heard. The opening verse was Isaiah 43:18-19: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See I am doing a new thing!” The brief devotion was inspiring. The devotion began: “When I’m tempted to think that life has given me too many challenges, I remember one of my patients at the senior-car home where I nursed for seventeen years….”
Helen Grace Lescheid has one of the hardest jobs on this earth, but she found God talking to her by the very testimony of a double amputee who was given prostheses at the age of 90. The patient “instead of focusing on what she had lost, (she) made the most of what she still had.” She even set a personal goal of crocheting one Christmas tree ornament each day in order to have 300 hundred to sell at a bazaar. The final sentence, the lesson learned, reads, “Mrs. Reimer (the patient) showed me that when we view adversities as adventures, life becomes not only bearable but exciting.”
Both of these readings had different ways of sharing a very similar concept for a brand new year. I go into a store where there is yarn, and all I want to do is walk around feeling the different textures and fibers. I look at the prices and the sales and think of all the wonderful combinations of knitted projects I could make. When I first began knitting, I could not get enough yarn and I quickly developed a stash. I love the colors and the feel, and it just makes me want to sit and knit all day long. Oddly enough, the more I try to knit something for myself, the more the stitches find a new home. I do have three scarves and a vest that I have kept for myself, but that does not compare to all of the scarves, the prayer shawls, the blankets and baby blankets I have knitted in the past three years.
Knitting makes me happy, but knitting is also a ministry. Each time I start a new project without a purpose, thinking it is so pretty I will love it, but sooner or later down the rows, a name becomes attached to the project and I know who will receive it. In a way, knitting is praying for me. Just like the little lady crocheting the snowflake ornaments, knitting is a method of focusing on my goals.
Slow stashing, a knitting principle, also becomes a guideline for a Christian life. I have collected an awful lot of yarn, so to speak, through the years, but I need to weed out or let go of the stuff that makes me unhappy. I need to focus on what makes me happy and to take some of that bad stuff and turn it into good stuff. I can do that with yarn, but I need to do that with life events, too.
The new semester started and I have an awful lot of stuff that has been accumulating for the past 14 years working with the at risk students in a program that is anything but typical. Much of the old experiences, difficult students, and frustrations can block my Christian thinking. Right now I need to be doing some slow stashing of those thoughts so that I can keep moving forward with God. If I can slow stash some of those negatives thoughts and feelings, I can hear God and follow God much more closely.
In the Knitters Review article, the process is outlined:
1. Pull everything out—including deep in the closets and attics where yarns tend to congregate. Remove it from cover of darkness, take it all out into the bright open air, and study what you have.
2. As you look at each skein, each bag of yarn, each project, pay close attention to your feelings. We’re going to create two piles: the happy pile and the unhappy pile.
Each one of us can do the same things with all those deep inner thoughts, feelings, and memories we store away. When we get each one of those dark, draining pieces of our lives out in the open, we can see how they make us feel. Look at each one with Christian eyes. Which ones make us happy and which ones make us unhappy?
The Knitters Review article continues to define the two piles:
“…the happy pile contains yarns that lift your spirits … inspire you …bring back good memories … from good people … feed your spirit.. keep those yarns. In the unhappy pile go all the yarns that immediately cause your spirits to sag. These yarns appeal to your sense of “should”… carry emotional baggage … are innocent bystanders to tough times in your life. These yarns need to go.”
You can see how the slow stashing really applies to so much more than yarn and I apologize for using this metaphor or comparison so fully, but sometimes the words we hear in different ways speak so clearly to us.
The article goes on and explains how you have to let go. The interesting thing is that the article provides such positive ways of getting rid of the excess yarn from the stash. The solutions are filled with Christian thinking—give to schools, give to homeless or the needy, share it with others. This may not be the way to get rid of all the unhappy thoughts and emotional baggage, but once we do let go of all that junk in our lives, we will be able to see new ways of taking life’s lemons, so to speak, and turn it into lemonade.
Several months ago I challenged each of you to look at the world through God’s eyes. I think that is exactly what we should do as we dump out all the old and look forward. At school we are doing this. We start each semester like a brand new year. Our students get full credits in one semester so the next semester we start all new classes. Some students graduate at the end of the semester, so new students come in. Sometimes it is difficult to get rid of all the negative feelings from one semester to the next, but when you do the school day goes much better.
The daily devotionals we read are tools that help us let go and turn our cares over to God. The quick look at a verse or two or three in the Bible each day provides us with the guidance for our days. On the January 3 Guidepost reading, the devotional was about making lists. The contributor Debbie Macomber shared how her family had a tradition of making lists of the goals they which to complete in the New Year. Her method has even developed into worksheets that cover financial, recreational, personal and spiritual goals. She said that sometimes it was difficult to see the lists as goals because they were more like wishes.
Letting go and turning over our concerns to God is difficult and Debbie Macomber heard God helping her when she read a billboard: “Some things need to be believed in order to be seen.” For her, those words gave her a new direction, causing her to create a new list—“Needs to be believed.” Her choice of scriptures was from Matthew7:7-8 and the words are so familiar:
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”
Slow stashing needs to begin today. Sometimes we do not always know how to manage, but we need to let God take over. This is no easy task, but it is a step into a Christian lifestyle that will lead us to creating an enormous happy pile and a diminishing unhappy pile. The more we practice slow stashing, the more we read the Bible, the more we talk to God in prayer, the happier our lives will be. We will see the adversities as adventures; and once we tackle them and reach our goals or complete our lists, we will find peace within our souls.
Here is the challenge: make a list or a set of goals, both personal and as a church. We have God. We have time. We have work to do. Let’s take an active approach to live a Christian life that is filled with happy yarns, happy thoughts, and exciting adventures. We have the tools: the Bible, family and friends, prayer, devotionals, studies, worship, and fellowship.
The article in Knitters Review ends with a hint: stashing … slowly. She uses the idea for gathering yarn, but consider this idea for including God in our life:
But there’s another possible path, the slow stashing path, in which you get to choose which yarns (choose God) to let into your life from this moment forward … but you are doing it in a mindful and conscious way. You are seeking yarns (God) that inspire you, yarns made from noble fibers and by good people, yarns that are truly worthy of your time, your attention, and your dollars. … The point is that we’re still acquire yarn (God) …in a much more mindful and fitting manner. And the more we stash from this place of mindfulness and love, the longer our love of knitting (God) will endure. And that’s the whole point, right?
That is right. The whole point is God. The whole point is that God makes us happy. The whole point is that as long as we are mindful of God and his love, we will learn about God, we will live life with God, and we will share God with all those around us—it feels so good. I know I am now going to work hard to slow stash my life with God. It makes me happy. I know it will make you happy, too.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for speaking to me this week. I know I have been busy and not paying very good attention to you, but I finally heard you. As we leave today, may we hear you in the words of the Bible we read, in the words of our devotions, and even in the words of our worldly interests. Guide us to live our lives as you would have us live them.. Guide us to look at this world through your eyes so that we may take life’s adversities and turn them into adventures. Guide us to share with others how happy we are as Christians.