Needlework, Spelling, and a Sopwith Camel

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It was a glorious book cover. Nothing like the paper ones of purple ink and purposive advertising provided by Crosbyton Elementary.


Mine was of yellow muslin, heavy enough to take a beating, yet delicate enough to take a stitch. Like a personalized badge of honor, my mother made it for a small girl who resolved not to learn any of the spelling words inside. With a few hours of simple embroidery, Mama changed my aversion for spelling bees into a honey love of words.


Knowing I would rather be in the wonderful world of Peanuts than the workaday world of textbooks, Mama used tiny, even stitches of black, red, and green to alter my attention. With a simple outline of Snoopy atop his Sopwith Camel, Mama flew her own secret mission as she perforated the dustcover of my most dreaded textbook with pinpoints of love.


That spelling book and its World War I flying ace went with me everywhere. It rode with me in my bike basket as I sped along the dusty turn-rows of my daddy’s farm. It stared at me in the mornings as I awoke to mouthfuls of hot and buttery Malt-O-Meal. And Snoopy posed, still and breathless beside me, as I practiced my own sketches of him, Charlie Brown, and both of the Van Pelt siblings.


Like a bi-plane fighter during enemy fire, my dust cover suffered a few dings in the course of the school year. The heavy shelling of a yellow magic marker. The pelting of hand-drawn bullet holes on the doghouse. The peppering of a few stray pen marks from time endured in my book satchel on the daily, rural bus ride.


I spent a whole year clutching that book and it’s jacket. In time, I learned how to spell wrinkle and wrist; knife and knock; Tuesday, Wednesday and even Saturday. There were ph- words and -gh words. G’s that sounded like j’s, and c’s that sounded like s’s. All merely rules, valued first because of their cover.


As the days grew hot and the school bell sounded for the last time, I stacked my spelling book with the rest and turned my back on third-grade forever. But not without my book cover — safely buckled into my use-worn satchel.


I still have that book jacket. Aged and dingy, it evokes a lifetime ago when decisions were simple and duties small. But as I finger the fragment today, its reverse side speaks more to me than the bold flying beagle and his brilliant red scarf. There on the inside is the ragged blueprint of a work well-done. Ends of thread stray free where stitching began anew. Strands overlap in a tumult where a gap in the pattern necessitates. Only the back side of the book cover bears testament to the true labor of love accomplished by a mother’s hope for the best.


Like the reverse side of my mama’s embroidery, every life bears evidence of the messiness of daily existence. As the stitch of shame crosses the color of the moment and the tangle of anger balls into a knot, we wonder why the result looks nothing like our intended design.


We spend most of our lives looking on the wrong side of the work.


Take a moment to see your life’s tapestry from the viewpoint of it’s Maker. The more intricate the design, the more pierce points of the needle. Yet in His eyes, you are already a beautiful masterpiece of woven art.


He is able. Able to see both the completion of the work and the progress of it at the same time. What is knotted and gnarled from one perspective is perfectly according to the pattern of Another. The only responsibility of the piece is to remain pliable in the hands of the Master Embroiderer. Rest then, knowing that He Who began the good work is the only One Who has both finished it and is continuing to do so. 


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