Our church planned an event recently, where ladies would gather to sew dresses in support of Lutheran Border Concerns Ministry. Sienna and I wanted to go, but it conflicted with a hike we’d organized for the Cambridge sixth graders and then, due to Covid-19 restrictions, the event was cancelled anyway. Instead, the coordinator Pamela put together little fabric, elastic and bias tape kits for the women who planned to participate.
When Pamela showed Sienna and me the kit, we asked when the dress needed to be done by and were relieved to learn we had until December 1st to complete it! Since we planned to visit family in Humboldt for Thanksgiving, I figure my mom (and sewing extraordinaire!) could help us make the dress. I haven’t sewed much in my life and we only have Sienna’s little starter sewing machine at home, so we definitely needed the help!
As luck would have it, we decided not to go up north for Thanksgiving after all. We really needed a restful week at home and didn’t feel up to the 30 hours of driving! But, that meant we lost our sewing instructor! I decided not to pressure ourselves to complete the dress over this restful week. If we had time and got it done, great! If not, we’d apologize and contribute warm clothes for the donation drive instead.
All week I’d been truly living in the moment and not striving to control my feelings. Oh, the freedom of surrendering and trusting God feels amazing! Friday afternoon ended up being completely open and I decided to try sewing the dress. I said a few little prayers in anticipation of starting on the project: “Lord, please give me patience and peace so I can overcome the challenges I know will come. I want to be able to contribute this dress to the ministry. If it’s your will, please help me. Amen.”
Getting the sewing machine set up involved internet searches to remember how to load the bobbin and thread the machine! I read the detailed instructions in the kit and felt like it was in a foreign language! YouTube videos were incredibly helpful as I watched tutorials on how to thread our particular machine and how to sew a French seam. I also didn’t realize the straps (included in the kit) were made from bias tape until I searched for “bias tape” online!
About three and a half hours later, I was done! There were several moments of frustration as I struggled to get the elastic casing closed. I about lost it when the needle on the machine broke off as I tried to backstitch over a pin! Rookie moves. Fortunately, with a quick call to my mom, I discovered one extra needle in the side tray of the machine. Felt like an answer to a prayer!
I kept making frustrated noises and at one point Dennis asked me, “Wouldn’t it be easier to just buy a dress to donate?” I sighed and said, “That’s not the point!” But, it was pretty funny because of course it’s true: it would be easier but not nearly as satisfying as investing the time to create something.
As I started this project, I thought of how great it would feel to actually finish the dress. Boy, it was exhilarating! Not because the dress turned out perfectly (don’t look too carefully at the seams!) but because I pushed through the uncertainty and relied on God to overcome my frustration and sit in the discomfort of not knowing what I was doing.
Sewing a dress had become symbolic for me of something I avoided doing when perfectionism reigned in my heart and mind. A couple years ago, I couldn’t fathom sewing four dresses with Sienna for her play, because I didn’t know how to do it well. This little dress meant so much to me because I didn’t let fear of failure keep me from trying something new. I accepted the feelings of frustration and ignorance but kept going.
That evening at bedtime, I was still marveling at the completed dress as Teo and I read and prayed. He said, “I didn’t think you were going to do it,” with childlike honesty. What a teachable moment! Teo also struggles with perfectionism and doesn’t like trying things he doesn’t know how to do. I replied: “Right?! It was hard and I was frustrated. But, it was like the growth mindset we talk about. I didn’t know how to sew the dress, but I could keep trying and learn something new. Also, I prayed for strength and peace, a lot.” He nodded and patted my arm.
This little dress brought such fulfillment, peace and hope into my week. Thank you, Lord!