A Ridiculously Long Yarn Along


~California Car Knitting~

Hello, there! I haven't yarned along in a long, long while. It's good to be knitting again. In a most encouraging note, Beth observed that the old ladies at the quilting store and the yarn shop have gnarled arthritic hands. And still, they create their art with them. (Seriously, Beth herself is such an inspiration. She knits and quilts and trains for a  triathalons–all with arthritis.). So, I'm knitting. It hurts in the beginning and I can't go for very long at at all, but I'm doing it. 

I started a much bigger version of this shawl while in California. I chose the yarn ahead of time–a Pakucho cotton in Forest. Pakucho cotton is 100% organically grown in Peru by rural artisan and Indian farmers, using sustainable methods, on small farmyard plots. And it's entirely fair trade. But, wait! There's more. It's not dyed. It's naturally colored yarn that grows in eight earthy colors. Colored cotton has grown in Peru for 4,500 years but it's recently been revived. Intrigued? Read all about it here.

The poet in me was pretty thrilled when my yarn perfectly captured my impression of the hues of California's landscape. It's a lovely gray-green-with-a-touch-of-brown.


I've made a little–just a little- progress on it since arriving home. I'm still settling into a workable fall routine and part of that is seeing where my knitting pockets are. I finished reading Interrupted on the trip. I have to admit that I was very inspired by  7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess and very bothered by Interrupted. [Caveat: among the heavy influences listed in Interrupted was Richard Rohr.]. What bothered me, I think, was the impression that somehow we are all called to flee the suburbs and serve the poor somewhere else. After reading the book, I looked at my homeschooling-mother-of-many-life and wondered if I wasn't totally missing the mark because I wasn't feeding the hungry in Africa or at least in downtown DC. Somehow, taking a baby from a weary mom at our dance school and rocking her for awhile didn't seem as worthy as rocking an orphan in Ethiopa. But God loves that mom at dance and He loves that baby, too. There are spiritually starving people right here in my midst. I know them and He calls me to love them well. To love them wholeheartedly. Some of us might be called to encourage and love and educate and support and feed and disciple right here in the midst of the minivans. Interrupted distracted me from my vocation. I don't think that was the author's intention. I think it was my overzealous interpretation. There's probably much more to say about that. I tend to get distracted…

Other things that try to distract me from hearth and home and this needy bunch of kids who all look astonishingly like my husband are opportunities to write and speak and work in the online and between-the-covers world of Christian publishing and ministry. In order to go to California, I had to say "I'm sorry, I can't do that." Again. Twice. I couldn't go to the Catholic New Media Conference in Dallas, despite prior plans to do so. And I couldn't join Sally Clarkson and the other writers from MomHeart at Sally's home for a leadership intensive.  Both were good things. Very good things. A week in California with my husband? It was the better thing. It was the thing God intended for me. Sally was so very encouraging when I told her about the trip. And I know she's held me in her heart and her prayers. So, I'm revisiting my copy of The Ministry of Motherhood.

I can hear Sally's voice reminding me that God calls me home. I keep saying "no." Or "not just yet." Just as I was certain all those many years ago that God was calling me to raise a large family for His Glory, I am reminded that He still wants me here. There are many, many opportunities to serve Him in my neighborhood and on the soccer field and even in the grocery store. My children are learning to recognize those opportunities right alongside me. I am still wholeheartedly investing in my home and family because my family still needs me. Their needs are numerous and important and my job is far from finished. This is my Africa. 

Join Ginny for more yarns:



  1. says

    “This is my Africa.”
    Love it. My husband and I have had many talks about this, how people think they need to travel across the world or give money to some charity for the faceless poor of a 3rd world country, when right in our own backyard and families are people who need our help and encouragement perhaps just as much. (Not saying that those other ways of helping are not good too, but just so far removed from us…like many things in today’s world.)
    Thank you!

  2. says

    Elizabeth, it is nice to see you knitting again, although I am sorry it still cause you pain. I am curious to know if you like the cubic needles? I have thought of trying them myself,but wasn’t sure how they worked.
    Seven has changed my life and while I have Interrupted on my list I may wait to read it. I found myself wondering about how I was living my life and if I was really giving enough so I am glad to read your post today. I still have children at home that need me, along with my husband who has his own business. This place I call home is were my calling is at the moment and I don’t need to feel less of a person because I can’t fly to Africa or Hati to help others. Thank you for continuing to bless me everytime I visit here. Your words have helped me in ways you can not imagine.

  3. says

    I agree while heartedly (and had some similar feelings about interrupted). I often look around at my messy house and have remind myself “this is my mission field”. Thank you for continuing to bless us with your words and wisdom. You reach out to so many!

  4. jodi says

    I agree (after reading 7, then reading interrupted) as I have a passion for orphans and widows but my dh does not. then the Spirit reminded me that we just had a teen mom and her 3yo live with us for a year while transitioning out of foster care, and have been caring for 2 terminally ill parents who died within 6 months of each other, leaving his 87yo widowed mother who lives behind us, to care for, help go through her 3 floors of home and prepare her to move into our in-law quarters. And though 3 of our 7 have graduated, they still live under our roof while working FT or commuting to college, etc. and are still very needy… in a deep thinking/late night talking sort of way….
    Our mission field is here too….
    appreciate you, elizabeth-
    jodi in pa

  5. says

    In the past, when our sons school schedules had them in Princeton all day, I would go to Mass there at St. Paul’s. I remember one homily in particular, about Mother Theresa and how a mom had told the priest she felt so inadequate because she wasn’t in Calcutta.
    “Walk the path God put you in to walk – whether it is in Calcutta or right at home.” Those words have stuck with me for nearly a decade.

  6. says

    I, too, read 7 and then read Interrupted. After initially feeling much the same as you described, what I took away was the way the Hatmakers followed the Holy Spirit’s call on their lives. I hope and pray that I’m listening just as closely so that He can continually move in our family however He so chooses. My gut tells me that’s going to be right here at home, and I’m good with that!

  7. Maria says

    I really appreciated your post as I often feel guilty that I can’t DO MORE because my time is taken up with the mundane tasks of my household and my toddlers. I have a question for you, Elizabeth, and I don’t mean any offense. I am sincere in this: why do you read Protestant spiritual books? I know from reading your blog how grounded you are in Catholic spirituality. I am just curious because I don’t really ever read Protestant devotional literature. It always seems slightly “off” to me. Am I missing something by not ready more broadly outside of my own tradition?
    Please delete this comment if this is an inappropriate question.

  8. Patty says

    Thank you thank you thank you.
    I have my own Africa, too. And it doesn’t look like anyone else’s Africa. I try to keep in mind what I read on one wise woman’s blog a few years ago…”Keeping my eyes on my own work” or some variation of that. Thanks again.

  9. says

    wow. i have never heard of those books.i am going to have to take a peak. you know, i think no matter where you are you can give to those who need it, what they need at that moment. we donate money so others can do work outside this country, but there is so much to do right in your own backyard (so to speak), those people need whatever you can give just as much. and you have to work with what you have. (hug)

  10. Judy says

    This last Sunday, our minister spoke from the first chapter of Mark – Jesus calling of the four fisherman disciples. As I think through the way He called them and others in the Scriptures, it is clear that His ‘Follow Me’ is direct and authoritative. He never uses manipulation to guilt-trip a follower, but simply calls those with hearts willing to follow Him.
    Though I’ve not read ‘Interrupted’ if feeling guilty about Africa is your response, I think it is unlikely to be God’s leading. That He fills your heart with compassion for those around you – that single mom and her child, that He convicts you of the importance of sustaining a marriage with time set apart to be with your husband, that He directly (Deuteronomy) instructs you to bring your children up in the nurture of the Lord – these are evidences of His particular ‘Follow Me’ call for you.
    He knows the needs here and the needs of Africa and calls each of us accordingly. May His peace fill you as you faithfully serve those He has given you…

  11. says

    Glad to hear this!! I am the same way…haven’t read Interrupted but would have had the same response as you did initially. I had that response when I read Shane Claiborne’s book The Irresistible Revolution. Those wonderful service ideals distracted me from the significance of being home and teaching my children. This encouraged me!!

  12. says

    I do like the needles. I don’t know how much they help. I knit for about an hour today during the girls’ ballet lesson and my hands are really stiff tonight… But I knit, so that’s good! I’m glad to have helped provide the words. :-)

  13. says

    I definitely think that the Hatmakers followed their call and I hope I made that clear. I was just really troubled by her thoughts on “Blessing the abundantly blessed.” It’s true that most Americans are materially blessed. But is that how we truly measure blessing and need? There are lots of people who have material wealth and are spiritually starving. Are they not also needy? Do they not cry out for ministry? In the end, Jen ministers to the materially wealthy all the time. her blog and books and speaking engagements speak to those people. So, clearly, she had not abandoned them altogether–it was just the way I read Interrupted.

  14. says

    I read Protestant books because there’s wisdom in them. The books I read are usually well-grounded in Biblical truth and they are written by women who truly want to live Godly lives and share Jesus with their readers. I read them through a Catholic lens and I’m always aware that with every Protestant book *there could be more.* It’s never full. But there’s good there. And I’m blessed by many of them.
    I also have personal relationships with several Protestant authors. I consider them close, personal friends. We share our hearts in the context of those friendships, well beyond the written word. I think that sharing consoles our Lord, who must be brokenhearted over division in the Church.

  15. says

    I think 7 was good for moms at home. There was plenty there to get us thinking and moving but within our own call. Interrupted didn’t have the same effect. And, perhaps, the tone of Interrupted would be different if Jen wrote it now. It came before 7. I’d like to think we all grow, even those of us who leave written records of our soul’s growing pains.

  16. says

    I didn’t particularly care for either of those books – I am just a little bit worn out with all the latest Christian books being so Progressive & Liberal. I guess I’m more conservative than I really realized when it comes to Christianity and all other areas of my life. I did take away a few good things, and the books were worth their read. I just didn’t find them as awesome as everyone told me they would be.

  17. says

    That’s an interesting perspective, Lindsey. I guess since I’m Catholic, I tended to group all Protestant books together. That broad perspective has changed in the last few years. I supposed I was just beginning to see how divided Protestant books are. But maybe, it’s that recent books are more progressive. Labels are so difficult. I think there’s a tendency to clump into political groups people of faith. For instance, on Twitter this morning I saw a Catholic characterizing liberal Democrat Catholics as caring about the poor and conservative Republican Catholics as caring about the unborn.As if they were mutually exclusive! That was a surprise to me! Why does caring for the poor have to be a liberal thing? i know lots of conservatives who give generously of time, treasure, and talent to serve the poor. It’s more difficult to make a case for Democrats protecting the unborn, particularly now that they officially state otherwise, but social justice is not counter to orthodoxy. And, if the Bible tells us that it is more difficult for a rich man to get to heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle, shouldn’t somebody be sharing the Good News with the materially wealthy? Seems like they need the gospel, too. I think we are called to serve the spiritually poor wherever we find them.

  18. Judi says

    Elizabeth, so glad to hear that you have prayed and pondered and realized that your Africa is in your very own home. When I read your thoughts about Mary’s Shelter, I immediately cried out {silently} No No. I hope this doesn’t sound patronizing but from my vantage point of 60 years, 40 of them married come this December, I want so much to see you give and receive every possible bit of joy from your children. My baby will be 35 next week and I don’t think I always realized the joy in the midst of baby/toddler trying times—and I really didn’t realize the joy in the terrible teens :-)
    Don’t misunderstand – Mary’s Shelter is a wonderful wonderful thing indeed. But your babies and husband are also so very wonderful. And who knows, one of your babies may someday go to Africa.
    My this is a lot of words-I hope they came out right.

  19. Mary Lou Shookhoff says

    One of the missionary orders who send me materials (I think it might be the Franciscans) have a lovely saying: some help the missions by going there, others by staying home, contributing & praying or something like that. I’ll find the actual saying if I can for you. Put that on your refrigerator and look at it when you feel guilty, When (if) you have a few extra dollars, send it to them.
    The last time I knit in the car during a trip was in 2003 or 2004 when we went up to New England. I chose an afghan to make because I thought it would last. Wrong! We were in Bath, Maine when it happened and after I patiently toured the place where they make some kind of ships for the Navy (can you tell how interested I was but I did it for my hubby) I finished the last row, the binding off last row and I suddenly was filled with the worst feeling any of us craft people can experience – acute knitting withdrawal syndrome (or fill in your own craft)! When, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted it: the mother of all yarn stores, I really mean it – Halcyon yarns! It’s (I kid you not) fully 2 stories high!! Can you believe it!!! And this is why it pays to be patient while your hubby does his thing on vacation. My dear husband turned the car around and drove right up to that store, fully knowing what i was going to do. I was out of the car before the key was out of the ignition. And I ran (for me which is more like a fast crawl) up the steps and opened the door and just stood there with my tongue hanging out!!! Heaven surely must look like this, at least in a corner. And my dear husband patiently waited until, restraining myself from not taking the store home with me, I made my purchases, As soon as I sat down in the car, the knitting needles were out of the pack and I was casting on before we were out of the parking lot. And that awful sensation entirely disappeared. Ahh!
    And please pray that when I finally get to have my back surgery, all goes well and we can resume out little vacations because that was the last time I was well enough to do so. I miss it. And so does he.

  20. says

    I often remind myself — “Yes, I can do everything, but I can’t do everything Right Now.” It’s a good reminder that saying no to good things, things that I want to do, is nonetheless often necessary. We only have so much time and energy and we must prioritize.

  21. says

    Oh yes, protestants are WAY divided on so many issues. It’s sad. I am sure God is disappointed at how man has shattered apart the church in so many different ways across the time. And like you said, loving the poor doesn’t have to be a “liberal” thing or a “new” thing as many books will make it sound to be all hip…it’s what God has called us to do since the beginning of time, to love others. No matter where they come from.

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