After a long day at school and even a longer ride on the bus, it was always good to get to the place I called home. On any given afternoon I would find my Mama busy in the house, her foot pressed hard in the pedal while watching the beautiful fabrics glide through the needle casing on her Singer sewing machine. And on special days my doll would be propped up on my dresser in my bedroom adorning a new dress where my Mama took time out of her busy day to bring a smile to her little girl’s face.
For several years Mama made draperies and curtains for others and clothes for me. Not all my clothes were stitched by Mama, mostly my Sunday go-to-church dresses. I had some store-bought clothes as a little girl. Looking back and feeling rather ashamed now, I was never as grateful for those “handmade” dresses as I was those “store-bought” ones. I can still remember one of my friends telling me I was “lucky” my Mama made my dresses and especially clothes for my dolls.
Any one that knows my Mama knows she has hands that have never been idle. Sewing, quilting, knitting, crocheting, hands dug deep in the dirt in her flower beds–her hands have always been busy. Doing for her family, doing for others. And over the years her hands have wrinkled and aged, but never have they slowed.
Busy hands are blessed hands.
Photo by Jill Miller Woodie
She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. (Proverbs 31:27)
Mama taught me the joy of having busy hands, like her Mama taught her. And to be honest I didn’t always enjoy the learning as a young girl but looking back now, I’m grateful she took the time to show me the little things that I wanted to learn and some things I didn’t want to learn.
She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands. (Proverbs 31:13)
The past few weeks I have been rereading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books. Laura’s Ma, Caroline worked from sunrise to sundown–cooking, gardening, preserving food, cleaning, sewing, mending, and so much more. Laura and Mary helped with the chores, learning from their Mama and on many nights before bedtime the two girls were described as ‘sitting by the fire sewing on their 9 patch quilts.’
She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard. (Proverbs 31:16)
The stories also told were of Pa making the long trek to town every so often and sometimes he would come back with calico, wrapped in brown tissue which meant new dresses for Laura, Mary, baby Carrie, and Ma and they would be overjoyed with what seems to us now as such a simple gift.
She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff. (Proverbs 31:19)
My Mama told me a similar story of her Daddy, my Grandpa going into town and coming back with feed sacks filled with flour and grains. And she knew the colorful sacks with stripes and pretty flowers would be used for new dresses for her and her sisters.
A favorite story of mine in the New Testament is about a seamstress. Dorcas, also known as Tabitha, a disciple in Joppa and the scriptures describe her as a “woman full of good works and almsdeeds which she did” (Acts 9:36, KJV). She sewed coats and clothing for the widows of the community. She touched these women in a mighty way. Dorcas died and they mourned her death, “weeping” the Bible says. (Acts 9:39, KJV). They called the disciple Peter to her home and while he was there they showed him the many garments and coats she had made for them.
Dorca’s story is so much more than just a needle and thread and garments and coats. Her story is about the giving of self, the using of her talents and gifts to help others–the miracle of being raised from the dead, and the faith of her friends calling for Peter to come to her home. The Bible doesn’t speak of this, however we might picture through her story she taught many others to sew with a needle and thread. But this we do know, she sowed the seeds of love, kindness, and loving her neighbor as herself, like Jesus.
She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. (Proverbs 31:20)
Her little voice was loud over the receiver–almost out of breath. ‘Granna, I need you to buy me some needles and thread and cloth and buy you some needles and thread. You and me are going to make dresses and shirts–matching dresses for me and Mama, and matching shirts for my brother and Daddy to wear. And Granna, I know what colors I want. Red and green.’
And I said with a whole lot of joy and some doubt of the learning ahead, ‘How about let’s start out with something smaller, like doll clothes? Something a little easier?’
‘No, Granna. Dresses and shirts!’ she said in her determined six-year old voice.
Oh boy! This Granna better be oiling up the sewing machine, buying more needles, thread and fabrics of red and green so I can teach my eager little granddaughter what my Mama taught me, and her Mama taught her, and what her Mama taught her, and the many women who continue to teach us well.
Busy hands are blessed hands.