Knitting Lessons

{This is a very long post of blessings and unexpected lessons; if you can stick with me to the end, you are, indeed, a treasure!}

Elizabeth had to two wishes for this "Momcation," her Make-a-Wish trip:  She wanted to go to the Basilica and she wanted to teach Ann and me to knit.

On the morning of the first full day together, Elizabeth is ready to begin. She's not wasting a moment. Time is too precious. Mike and I arrive at the hotel to find Elizabeth with her knitting bag ready for the car. Ann, who will sit in the backseat with Elizabeth, is going to knit on the way to D.C.  We talk a bit and then Elizabeth takes up the needles. I try watch and listen, but turning around in the moving car makes me carsick. Just a couple of miles from the D.C. border, Mike's phone rings. Glancing at the number, he says, apologetically, "I have to take this."

I hear him explain that he's driving and ask to call back. I can tell that his caller has said this call must happen now. We are just a few miles from the border and cell phone usage is prohibited while driving in D.C. He pulls over in front of the Iwo Lima memorial. Then, Mike takes the call he's waiting nearly ten years to take. Meanwhile, Ann's knitting lessons have commenced in the backseat. I try to pay attention, but I can't. Not with him talking about epic things. I have just missed my first knitting lesson.  Jokingly, I beg Ann not to get too far ahead of me.

Call finished, we head over the bridge. This time, it's my phone that chimes. Text message. Sounds urgent. I take a deep breath and send a message in return. I can't attend to the matter today. No computer access and limited cell phone where I'm going. I turn my phone off. We continue on to church.

It is a perfectly beautiful, utterly peaceful day. Perfectly beautiful.

At day's end, Mike has to make a quick trip to his office. The plan is for Ann, Elizabeth, and I to go a coffee shop, have a late afternoon snack, then drop Mike at home and head back to the hotel for dinner and knitting. In the coffee shop, I remember to turn on my phone and I notice that Christian has called me. I remark that Christian never calls; he'd rather starve than pick up a phone and order pizza. Then, I see he's left a voice message. Trying to swallow the panic rising in my throat, I text him: Do you need me? He calls me back. I hear hysterical chaos in the background. I don't remember what I said aloud, but I'm pretty sure it was "Is who bleeding?"

I watch the color drain from Ann's face. And I know what she's thinking.

It is not that tragedy, thank God. But the dog has been hit by a car.

Ann and Elizabeth both affirm what I'm thinking: I need to get home. I miss the evening knitting lesson. Still, I go to sleep with the peace that comes of knowing that I used the day well. That I filled the time the way He wanted.

In the urgent of the dog and the vet and the children, I have nearly forgotten the message I received as we went over the bridge. Mike reminds me early the next morning. Yes, I sigh. I will attend to that just as soon as I get to the hotel. There is internet there. I'll make some quick calls.

I am determined not to let anything rob me of the peace I desire or the time I've committed to Ann and Elizabeth. At the last minute, as I'm heading out the door, I scoop Karoline into the car to come along for the day. Best decision ever.

I get countless texts and phone calls on the way to hotel. Apparently, this matter really is urgent and I'm already a day late. I'm also late to the hotel.

When we arrive, Ann shrieks with glee and Elizabeth's face lights up with joy at the sight of my child. Ann's finished washcloth heralds the news that she is knitting. I am woefully behind on the second mission of the trip. I explain the calls I need to make and apologize profusely. "It's all good," Ann reassures. I pray she's right. I closet myself in the bedroom while Elizabeth teaches Karoline to knit. Three long phone calls later, and I need internet access. In this hotel, that takes some coaxing. Elizabeth takes fifty or so holy cards and tells Karoline the stories behind them all. Ann begins to work on her sweater.

As I finally read the document online, my inbox dings. Column deadline moved up because of the Monday holiday. It's due tomorrow, very early.

Several times, I ask Ann and Elizabeth, why now? These are phone calls we've waited months, even years to receive. God knows what is planned for these days. Why now?

Elizabeth and Karoline and I leave for Mass. After Mass, I leave Karoline and Elizabeth with Ann and drive to pick up lunch. Karoline finishes her knitting, one tiny little baby washcloth. Elizabeth gathers her close and tells her all about her own children. I talk to Mike about the document on the way to get carryout, fighting tears now. I'm missing it all. Lunch in hand, I get another text. I sit in the parking lot and sob.

After lunch, one more email. And now, I need a printer and a fax machine. I leave that room, the one I've imagined all these weeks, the one where I stashed tea and honey and muffins. The one where I carefully arranged a bouquet of tulips. I'm not filling time. It's slipping through my fingers.

The manager in the hotel office must read the despair on my face. He is ever so helpful. Business done at last, I run back to the room. I begin knitting at 3:30. At 4:00, Mary Beth calls to tell me that ballet is unexpectedly early that day. We pack it all up and head back to my house.

There, Elizabeth sits and teaches Katie to knit.


Ann and Karoline work on their own project, exuberantly stamping and sealing envelopes with Ann's signed bookplates, using Karoline's tiny washlcoth to dampen the glue. Late afternoon light fills my home. I make dinner and tend a dozen little details. I do not knit.



I am struck by the irony that I'm making such poor, hasty decisions regarding sacred time while face to face with the woman who wrote "There are no emergencies. Only amateurs hurry."

I am an amateur.

I know that I have conceded to the tyranny of the urgent, have lost the opportunity to do the important. And I discover how unimportant the urgent really is.

Knitters tell me that knitting slows a woman, brings calm to her soul, makes her a better listener. Watching Elizabeth knit with my children I see that this is all true. She has a peace about her, even in the midst of so much suffering. It brings her such joy to teach her art to these sweet, young girls. And I am struck with overwhelming sadness. Time I will never have again.

Dinner is a bit of a wild ride. Who raised these noisy children who are bouncy all over the place? Why are they exceptionaly rowdy tonight? I strain to hear over the din. Still, I do listen. And I do share. And God blesses. These guests at my table? All grace.

It's nighttime now. Soon, I will drive Ann and Elizabeth back to the hotel. I want to stay. To sit with them and talk and drink tea and learn to knit. But I know that my babies need me to put them to sleep on this night and I know that I have promised that column to my editor before the business day begins tomorrow. I say goodnight and drive away.

At home, Sarah Annie nurses to sleep readily and Karoline is asleep before I have a chance to go tuck her in. Even my night owl husband turns off the light and breathes deeply of this night's peace. He has used his time well. He has blessed. I write my column. It takes me less than half an hour. The computer clicks closed. Sleep will not come.

I creep downstairs to a living room that was full of yarn and paper and creative spirit just a few hours earlier. I pick up my pitiful green cotton triangle. And I can't remember. I try and try and try, but I cannot remember what comes next.

Instead, I write. I try to redeem the time by remembering the day that was so peaceful, the day when I said no to the urgent and listened instead to the whisper of the sacred. I try to knit with words.

Morning comes early and Mike and I leave for the airport.  Ann and Elizabeth are waiting for us outside. It's over. Elizabeth has resolved not to cry. And she doesn't. Ann and me?  Not so much.

Goodbyes are said.

After a brief stop at the bagel store on the way home, I gather my children and we seize this beautiful day and go to Bull Run, to the place where I force away winter and hope is born anew every single spring. We are met there by Ginny, who listens patiently to my whole story, as we watch our little girls play and our boys hold war councils build a teepee.





We talk about Ginny's knitting ministry and the ungrateful women with bad attitudes. I shudder as I consider my own sins. I cannot bear to look at this green triangle of cotton that is the knitting I did not learn. But I don't want to rip it apart. She takes it in her capable hands and binds it off for me. Tangible notes from lessons learned.


Katie tells her excitedly about the mittens Elizabeth has assured her she can knit. Ginny is skeptical. Katie has brought along her yarn. "Mrs. deHority says that real knitters bring their projects everywhere they go." She shows Ginny the darling book Elizabeth has given her and the pattern and confesses that she doesn't know how to begin. Ginny takes those four needles and explains to Katie how knitting on three needles works, all the while casting on stitches for her. Katie beams with gratitude. What a gift she has been given by these two women! I am counting now, actually counting gifts.


The children play--so glad for the early taste of spring--and Ginny tells me how knitting can help push past that compulsive perfectionism. I can't quite wrap my brain around it, but I do believe her.



And I leave the woods very sure that God is offering me this gift. That Elizabeth is still offering me this gift.

I have to learn to knit.

By Friday night, Katie has knit eight rounds and she is eager to learn to purl. I'm nearly frantic to help her, making a mental note of knitters I know. And it hits me. These are people who have been asking for months to get together, to visit, to slow down, to take time.

To take time in our hands and bless it with beauty.

Maybe this is what He's telling me?


At home, in the last rays of sunlight, I take out all the things Elizabeth has left behind for me. All the things I couldn't quite savor or appreciate while in the grip of the urgent tyrant. There is a binder of patterns, with a pocket in front. Elizabeth's 12-year-old son Brian has assembled these binders for us.


In the pocket are knitting tools, most of which I'm sure are important, but I have no idea what their purpose is yet. And there are exquisite needles, given to us by the woman who invented them. I have a growing sense of the value of these treasures.


And the yarn? Beautiful, beautiful yarn! So many people have given so generously to make this happen. I promise them, in that moment, that I will learn to knit. And I will do it now, because I want Elizabeth to see that she has given me the gift she intended. I will do it now, because the unintended gift is the invaluable lesson of knowing that some things are worth slowing for. I pray--a more fervent prayer than ever before prayed--that I will recognize the important and never again lose time to the tyrant that is urgency.


The next day. I begin again. Elizabeth sends me an email to get me started. I choose yarn that reminds me of The Hat. Gosh, the praying women with needles who have blessed me! Katie reminds me how to increase. I struggle through the first half, trying hard not to obsess over the obvious flaws. I hear Elizabeth telling me to move past them, to let go, and I see Ann, peacefully working extraordinarily beautiful yarn on her own gifted needles, nodding in recognition. I'm moving on. I'm persevering. And, I guess, I'm knitting. I recognize that I have missed Elizabeth sitting next to me. I know that she would have seen mistakes I'm making and corrected them as they happened. Instead, I am learning the hard way. It's always like that, isn't it? If we step out of God's will and we repent, He doesn't leave us stranded there, but we have chosen the hard way.

It's harder, but it's not too late. He redeems time.

Late that night, Mary Beth sits beside me. She picks up needles, too. Knit. Purl. The two of us together. God bless Elizabeth deHority.


Sunday morning, before even getting out of bed. I pick up my pink and white stitches again. I count. Enough, I think to begin to decrease. It goes so well! I have a rhythm. My stitches look so much better. It figures. In art, as in life, all is more beautiful and ordered when I decrease.


I am ready to finish before my children even awaken.

One small square.

I have said over and over that I plan to make at least a dozen washcloths before I move on to touch the beautiful yarn. I will knit and purl. I will cast on and bind off. I want to have some confidence and some rhythm. But, I will not miss the moment, either. I will not delay because I cannot achieve the perfection no one demands of me but me. Elizabeth has given me yarn intended for a shrug for Sarah Annie.

For this spring.

In time for the bluebells.

I only have eleven washcloths to go. And then, by the grace of God, I will knit that sweater.


I am listening to Ann's book, One Thousand Gifts, read aloud to me, by her, as I knit those remaining washcloths. Follow this link to learn how to get a free 14 day trial and one book at If you are new to, you can download and listen to Ann's book for free.

For more (and no doubt shorter) Yarn Along tales, visit Ginny.