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Archive for May, 2013

The Battle and the War

SingerTalents are a vehicle for God’s grace.

Do no neglect your gift . . . Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 1 Timothy 4:14-15

Do you have a special gift, talent or ability? Perhaps you have several talents. God expects us to use the talents He gave us. “Don’t turn way from them with a false sense of modesty. Exercise them. Improve your skills. Whatever your gift may be, use it as a vehicle for God’s grace.”1

I’m no Vera Wang, but I have a sewing machine that, until recently, has been one of my good friends. We have had good times together. My second in my lifetime. The first was a Kenmore that I bought from Sears when I was in my teens, the second–the one I have now–is a Singer. It’s one with just the basic stitch options which have always been sufficient for the projects I work on. The most recent project is a top-and-skirt set to use remnants of fabric that I really like–iridescent maroon taffeta with deeply embroidered butterflies.

Unfortunately, my Singer does not share my enthusiasm. Skipped stitches and bunched-up threads have plagued the project since last week. The project that should have been completed in a day can be found flung across my sewing table. Half-completed blouse pieces await hems. And I’m frustrated.

Shouldn’t a talent be easy?

Improve your skills. Right now, I’m improving my patience. A mile-long walk helped to clear my head and put me in a better frame of mind. After replacing the bobbin and the needle with Singer-brand products, the problem seems to have minimized. Often, the bumps in the road lead to improvement. It’s not over yet though. My Singer may have won the battle today, but I will win the war.

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Everyday Grace: Spiritual Refreshment for Women, 2011, by Ellyn Sanna

Principle #20 – Fait Accompli

After two weeks (maybe closer to three), six yards, countless late nights, and a string of eye-squinting needle threadings, it was finally finished. A dress. Not just any dress. A special gown for Mother’s Day for a banquet in Queen Esther’s court, a dinner-theater event held at a local hotel. Esther, one of only two women with a book in the Bible, was an orphan, raised by her cousin, who became the unlikely queen of Persia. The Biblical account of the woman to whom God appointed a special mission of deliverance of the Jewish people is one of the most well-known stories in history. From it the celebration of Purim was established. The story of Esther was a fitting focus for the banquet for which a special dress was required.

Making the dress, however, was not without its own challenges:

How Many Inches are in a Yard? – Any sewing enthusiast, tailor or seamstress knows that proper measurements are the foundation for a perfectly constructed garment. Although I took the time to update my measurements, I did not measure the fabric. My assumption that I had six yards of the heavily embroidered fabric (known as “Madam Butterfly”) was wrong. The shortage, unfortunately, was only discovered in the midst of cutting out the pieces of the skirt. I laid out the pattern on the fabric again and again only to discover that I had four yards of the fabric needed, a number that seemed more than generous when I bought the fabric over two years ago. After my panic subsided, I thought of a workable solution and continued by purchasing additional red taffeta fabric the next day.

Choose Your Weapon Wisely – All needles are not created equal. Good to know when working with taffeta fabric decorated with butterflies so thick that I cut six of them out of the remnant fabric and made a fascinator. The fabric was like some women—beautiful but complicated. My needle repeatedly jammed and bunched up as I tried to sew my seams. I spent way too much time pulling out threads and teetering on the verge of tears. My friend, the seamstress, advised me to use a ballpoint needle next time. It will be tough enough to handle the threads of the embroidered butterflies. Now I know.

Your Other Left – I like to personalize the garments that I make in little ways that add creativity and uniqueness. Making the bodice of the dress in a complementary color added a contrast to the dress. Red never fails to add drama. The instructions called for a left drape to be placed onto the bodice.

“No, it’s a right drape, you crazy pattern people.” I talk to myself a lot when I sew. Ignoring the inconsistency between the instructions and my perception, I basted the drape onto the bodice. Fine—or maybe not. Placing the other drape piece across the bodice I realized my mistake. One of the pieces would have to be recut in the opposite direction or my dress would be creative indeed—and lopsided. Somewhere in the planning and layout process I had cut the piece in the wrong direction. Another minor setback to teach me about patience and details.

The Perfect Fit – One of the toughest tasks in sewing a strapless gown is to achieve the perfect fit. My criteria was this: if I twist left, the dress turns left. We’re a team; we move together. Avoid the night-long tug of war with my dress at all costs. The cost was time. Time to consult with a professional seamstress who offered to tutor me on fitting the bodice and hemming the skirt. After several nips and tucks, I ended up with the snug fit that I needed in order to feel comfortable and confident on the evening of the event. No wardrobe malfunctions, please.

At times I turned off my sewing machine satisfied that I had met my nightly goal. At other times, however, I yanked the plug from the wall socket in frustration and felt like quitting. Who would know or care that I couldn’t make the dress I imagined? I mentally scanned my closet for a Plan B dress. That’s where the commitment to constant and never-ending improvement enters the door. I would never learn a new skill or feel the satisfaction of a project completed if I gave up.

We have an innate desire to endlessly learn, grow, and develop. We want to become more than what we already are. Once we yield to this inclination for continuous and never-ending improvement, we lead a life of endless accomplishments and satisfaction. – Chuck Gallozzi

After the banquet was over, I talked with a woman who attended with her three beautiful daughters. I finally succeeded in convincing the wide-eyed, older daughters that I had made my own dress (I choose to take their disbelief as a compliment), and I thought of Esther. Would she have ever thought that someday she would be sent on such a mission for God, placed in the palace “for such a time as this”? Using intellect and diplomacy, she changed the course of history. As I labored over mundane tasks—setting boning into the dress bodice, measuring the hem of the skirt—I learned new skills. I improved. We may not all have historically great moments like Esther, but let’s not shortchange ourselves by not improving when we have the chance. Who knows when our “at such a time as this” moment will be.

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Quotation from “The Success Principle: How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be”, by Jack Canfield