This phrase initially came to me as a tiny sentence to describe myself in my Instagram profile. I know, super enlightening, right? But at that moment, it felt so accurate to me. It was during a time when I didn’t know which end was up. We had lived in three different continents in a single year, well, actually in about 7 months, and I felt like I was in an emotional washing machine perpetually swishing this way and then swishing that way, back and forth by the relentless agitator, only to be interrupted by a nauseating spin cycle here and there. It was a rough time.
In the months following our landing in our third continent, one which I had previously called home but which now felt more foreign than the others that had been thousands of miles and several oceans away, I groped for some sense of normalcy. My head was constantly spinning, especially with people’s well-meaning, but wholeheartedly ignorant, comments, remarks, and suggestions.
So I started stitching. First, it was to make a gift for my mother-in-law. Then, as I reentered the work force, it was to ebb the throbbing of my head after long, grueling days of re-orientation back to my previous place of work. There, I found a bit of solace. There, my anxiety would quiet down. There, my soul could breathe. There, I felt a bit human again.
Then the stitching started to morph. The fabric and the pieces could express thoughts and emotions I couldn’t. My hunger for sunshine while living in a basement in the depths of winter. My wonder at snowflakes falling gently on the brown-gray earth. My delight at a dear friend’s marriage; my stress relief once the planning was over. Trips to the beach, teaching my first EPP class, packing to move continents yet again. These blocks all held unutterable, inexpressible pieces of me realized in fabric and stitches.
And I discovered I was stitching my way through my journey.
Fast forward a few years, and I’m still stitching. That very quilt that stores so many muted emotions was just finished. And I still don’t really know how I feel now that it’s done. Relieved? Sad? Proud? I don’t know.
What I do know is that stitching has become a part of me in its making. Those close to me appreciate the role stitching has in my life and challenge me to ask myself what I should do with it. It’s a terrifying question and I sink back from it, afraid of what it might mean. It has been such a safe place for me, like a warm bed on a chilly morning. I’m terrified that if I try to make it into something more I will lose the warmth and protection it has provided.
Then a verse comes to mind like a lightning bolt illuminating my heart:
“The Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Rom. 8:26 NKJV.)
Stitching has become an expression of those heart “groanings which cannot be uttered.” And the addendum to this verse comes quietly in the silence that hangs expectantly after a bolt of lightning before the thunder: just keep stitching.
BOOM. CRASH. RUMBLE.
Of course. Just keep stitching. Keep stitching your journey. Keep writing your story with needle and thread. It doesn’t need to find words yet. It doesn’t need to make sense yet. You can just keep doing the thing your heart can’t articulate but finds deep solace in. The words will come when they come. But for now, just keep stitching.