A year ago, I didn’t know if I would be able to put one foot in front of the other today.  Life was very heavy.  It was the middle of what I will always remember as ‘The Year of Tears.’

For the last few years, life took a turn – not abrupt, but a relatively slow yet excruciating turn away from what I had formerly envisioned.

I was terrified and confident all at the same time.  Confident because I knew that my cause was righteous.  Confident in my God, who had given me glimpses – sometimes clear bright vision – of where He wanted my life to go.  Of how He wanted me to use what He has given me to bless others.  Of how deeply He had called me to love – far beyond my ability to give what I knew to be love.

I was terrified because things I wanted – even the pursuit of righteousness – hadn’t always worked according to my plan.  Not even close.

I know a few things to be absolutely true:  my God is kind.  My husband loves me and our kids.  My kids love me, and they love their dad.  My life has a purpose.  Fact is, my whole life has pointed towards times like May 2016.

So I began working, often feverishly.  I was determined that nothing would stop me from reaching my goals:  of beauty, peace, righteousness.

For a time, everything worked smoothly.  I am nothing if not competent when I attack a project – whether a project like knitting an afghan – or building a life.

But one day, in spite of all my intense and persistent efforts, in spite of my faith that what was being fashioned together was beautiful and would only grow in beauty – it didn’t.  Life took a very different turn.

Truth is, life is not linear.  Sure, we’re all aging; for everyone, night turns to day turns to night again.  But there have been too many days when my plans have fallen apart in ways that make no sense, in things inconsistent with the effort I’ve put into the expected outcome.

Disappointments and heartache, like mental illness, prevent life from following a linear path.  Kind of like this afghan.

Afghan

The afghan pattern calls for curves, not lines, to form a feather and fan pattern.  I’ve knit this pattern at least twice before.  But this time, when I began the finishing touches in early May, I found a huge mistake.

Halfway through the afghan, my stitches switched direction.

Don’t ask me how it happened.  If you’re a knitter, you know it is not as ridiculous as it sounds.

But because of the pattern, and the yarns used, it’s still beautiful.  And amazingly, the day I laid out the leftover yarn and cut pieces to make the fringe, another beautiful thing happened:  I used all the rest of the yarn, and only had to cut 6 more pieces of a different yarn to finish the fringe.  Nothing was wasted.

Maybe this doesn’t seem like a miracle, but it is.  I literally guessed at how long to make the fringe, how many to group together, what the spacing should be.

This finished afghan is telling a story – much richer and more dimensional than merely an afghan with a twist.

Last July, I ended a corporate job, and began pursuing this calling that quickly became Outside In Ministries.

This may have seemed like another u-turn, and in some ways it was.  In others, it was putting me back on the track that God had laid out for me, before the foundation of the world.  I believe that with every fiber of my being.

At the beginning of 2015, after much prayer, God clearly let me know that mental illness was to be my focus, for the rest of my days.  Mental illness has been one of the precepts of my whole life.  God has equipped me – through u-turns and disappointments, through heartache and despair and mistreatment and mistakes and seemingly endless tears – to be the hands and feet of Christ in a unique way, and to help others do the same.

I am beyond thrilled that Outside In Ministries has just launched our first mental health ministry in a local church.  Ironbridge Baptist, located in suburban Richmond, sees the desperate need of breaking down the stigma associated with mental illness and loving marginalized people.  Because Jesus does.  Without exception.

Maybe your life has never taken a u-turn.  Mine has taken several.  But I encourage you to look at this afghan, and know – KNOW – that God isn’t finished with you.  NOTHING is wasted in His economy.  If you let Him, every tear, every sleepless night, every desperate prayer when you have no idea what else to do, will eventually come together.  The One Who experienced His own tears, sleepless nights and prayers of desperation holds together all things.  Even your heartache.

The pattern of your life may not look like the one you imagined, but God’s vision makes the finished product of your life richer, more beautiful and more Christ-like than any life without a twist.

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