This past year I watched as all the things that happened in this world started having an affect of many of my friends and family, even to those in our home right now. Military budget cuts caused massive layoffs for those working in the military contracting area, my husband, Don being one of them. For a guy who had worked all his life, including serving 22 years in the military, it was devastating and quite worrying to him, to say the least. With no federal budget being passed, and very few jobs open in his area of expertise things didn’t look promising. As a pretty new babe in Christ, having something hit you from out of the blue can be a real trial on your newfound faith. What made it worse is the way he was laid off. We had been away at his father’s funeral, and just returned the day before. He got up that Friday and went into work like usual. For some reason his key pass didn’t work and a fellow worker had to let him into the building. He went straight in and began his work day, doing what he knew he was suppose to. About 2 hours into the day, one of the bosses came walking into the room he worked in, and asked my husband what he was doing there.
“I can see that, but why? What are you doing here today?” The boss was as puzzled at Don’s response, as Don was at his question.
Don paused, and looked at the boss, sizing up what he must be talking about, thinking he meant why had Don come instead of staying home the extra day after the loss of his father. Don finally responded, “Oh I just couldn’t set at home today. I figured it would be better for me to keep my mind busy working.”
The boss suddenly looked down, shuffled his feet, and said, “No, I mean, why are you here today? Didn’t they tell you that you were laid off yesterday?”
To say the least, Don was stunned! No one had called, emailed, sent a letter, or even spoke to him face to face. Not one of the leads at his job had thought to let him know, although they all knew he was gone at the funeral of his father. Not one even after that tried to explain how it all happened, or the reasoning behind it. It was months before he finally found out what all took place and how the failure in communication came about. Nor did they seemed concerned about their failure, or about how their failure affected Don at that time.
I’ll never forget the look on his face when he walked in that door 4 hours earlier than he usually would. To say he was downcast would not cover it. We didn’t know how we were going to get by, because we had just used our savings to travel up north for the funeral, and for expenses while there, and we had to put out most of it before time on a replacement for our refrigerator, dishwasher, and the clothes dryer. We knew we were looking at some tough times ahead.
Most people would have gotten angry, downcast, even angry with God. I knew that with new believers that happens often because their faith isn’t built up to the point of total trust in the Lord. But for me, it was old hat. I had been a single mom, who had to trust the Lord to help me through, even to provide for our daily meal at times. I knew that my God was faithful and if we turned it all over to him, that the Lord would care for our needs during this time. It was the best gift I could give my husband that day, my love, the encouragement that the Lord would see us through, and a hug filled with all the love and hope I had in me. Of course the Lord took care of us, for over 6 months my husband was without a job. The house payment was met, the utilities, gas for the car, medical needs, and even groceries were taken care of all during that time. God was faithful to care for us, and all during that time we felt his loving arms around us, showing that love and compassion to us daily. Yet, there were so many we knew going through similar things, and some going through worse things. What in the world could we do to help so many?
It was during that time, a friend said to me, if I lived closer I would be giving you a hug right now, to let you know just how much you are cared for. I live quite a distance from my dearest friends and my family, so this thought from her was really something that got me through, and it is what the Lord laid onto my heart in showing my own love, care and compassion for others. There have been so many times that someone I knew was going through something and I wished I could be there to hug them, love them, and encourage than, but I couldn’t physically do so. I knew that prayer is affective and I could do that, but I wanted to do more, and have them know that I was indeed praying for them and sending them warm hugs and comfort. That is where the idea of making prayer shawls for my loved ones and friends came from. Led by the Holy Spirit, I decided to do something that would wrap my love and prayers for them whenever they needed them. But it wasn’t just about making the prayer shawls, or in giving them. It was about putting prayer for the person who would receive it, in every stitch and line of the crocheting. I knew to really be a shawl that would share the love and comfort of the Lord, then the Lord must be in every single stitch. I knew that my heart would have to be in prayer for the person each time I picked up the shawl to work on it. I would sit and pray for their needs, their health, their salvation, even the simplest parts of their day, their goings and comings, rising, and sleeping. I knew during the week or two that I worked on the shawl, I would have to make an effort to find out how they were doing and if there were any special prayer needs. It became a full out prayer campaign for that one person for the period of time it took to make, and send the shawl to them. Like most humans, at first it was about what I was doing for someone else, never realizing what the process was doing for me. Inside me something miraculous was happening, and much like the Grinch whose heart doubled in size when he felt the warmth of love and giving warm it, my heart was growing into a fervant heart of prayer and love. God was laying something bigger into my heart that is setting me on a new mission for His Kingdom…a prayer shawl ministry for my local church. It is just in the infant stages, but the urgency in me for it to come to fruition is great. Each Wednesday our church has a prayer meeting and each week there is a new list of prayer needs for us to pray about, and we literally take each to the alter of God right there on that night. Some pray by themselves, some pray in couples, and some pray in groups, but everyone prays. There have been times I went to the altar, prayed with my husband, or by myself, and there are times when I have been blessed to pray with these two wonderful elderly women who are the strongest, mightiest prayer warriors I have ever met. They don’t miss a name on the list, even if there are a hundred of them. Each is given the love and prayer that could only come from one who knows how the Lord sees them as if they were the only one in the world. They pour over each name as if that were their own grandchild needing love, mercy and grace, and they come before God’s throne boldly. That is how I knew I would need to pray for those I would give the prayer shawl to, as if they were my dearest family, and before the Lord boldly and in faith that he would answer each prayer. But I would also have to pour the love that was in my heart for them into each stitch too.
This whole lesson to me about prayer, planted the seed of this ministry deep into the soil of my heart, and I began seeing that list at church in a different way. Those on the list for prayers of salvation began to appear as hungry orphans needing food and hope. The soldiers on our list of Military to pray for, in my heart became pictures of patriots long ago at Valley Forge needing to know that they would find strength and courage through the Lord, and his divine protection upon them. Those on the list for prayer who had health needs, in my mind, were in a hospital that was filled to overflowing, to the point that there were not enough doctors and nurses to care for them, so would need the care that only a mighty and compassionate Lord, and Great Physician could give them. The more I saw these mental pictures of their needs, the more that seed grew. I had no car to go see each one, and my own health issues doesn’t always allow that, or the distance they are away as in our military prayer requests. But with the help of our church and other crocheters and knitters like me, we could be able to wrap each one in love and prayer, through the warmth of a prayer shawl or a prayer lap quilt. I’ve been praying about God’s leading on this, knowing that my health was limiting me on being part of the music ministry through the choir. And God is answering my prayer, as the Music Minister/Assistant Pastor at our church has written me this week that he felt God telling him that we also needed a ministry like this. For a woman to think so would be as common to me as Jesus appearing to a man first after his resurrection. But God doesn’t work that way. Mary was the person during Jesus’ time that people would have felt Jesus least likely to appear first to, and a man who doesn’t knit or crochet in our day and age would be the least likely to feel led to start a prayer shawl ministry . So I know that this is God’s leading. The funny thing is, God hasn’t stopped getting my attention about it with just this. It seems like at every turn around now I’m introduced to someone new in my life, my blogging world, my facebook friendships that is involved in a prayer shawl ministry, or starting one up at their church. It is like God is opening doors for me to learn more on how to start the one at our church, or sharing ideas with others who are involved in one. There are times like these that I stand at the garden gate of God’s Kingdom and watch him at work, and I am as amazed as a child looking at the first robin in Spring, or the first earthworm to wiggle through the winter hardness of the soil, or the very first bloom bursting through the bud on an early Spring day. I stand amazed at the fullness of his plan for me, and at the way he picks, waters and prunes the idea, then opens the doors to let the sunshine down on it, so that it make come to its fullness for his Kingdom. That is where I am right now, looking at that garden, knowing that I have been planted for a purpose and God is the gardener, helping me bloom into his Will.
Here is a poem that the Lord gave me, to include in with each prayer shawl that I made last year, and with those that will be given in the future. If you would like to use it feel free to copy it, but please don’t take credit for writing it, this one is of God, for God, from God, and to be used by God.
I will be updating this post with pictures of some of the prayer shawls I have already crocheted, and some I will finish in the near future. None will be similar, because no two people are 100% the same, and so my heart says each shawl should be an individual too.
Nothing in this world
Is as comforting at prayer.
Nothing draws us closer
As when the Savior’s near.
As you wrap this shawl
Around your shoulders tight,
May you feel the love and prayers
That have poured out day and night.
Prayers for your happiness,
For joy, hope, and peace,
Prayers that God’s blessings
For you will increase.
So as you wrap this shawl,
And feel its comfort there,
May you always feel assurance
That the Savior, Jesus, is near.