One stitch at a time: What My Grandmothers Taught Me
There was Nana Olson and there was Nana Yates and there was Gramma Westcott.
The older I get the more I am aware of what a lucky woman I am.
I was well into adulthood with children of my own and I still had a great grandmother and two grandmothers!
Wonderful unique individuals –women of faith whose ways of being in the world was worthy of emulation.
To write about each one would take a book for they were very different women living quite different lives in very different places—one raising a family singlehandedly on her own in Iowa and Minnesota with little but the land she owned and wit and wisdom to survive; one raising a family with my grandfather in a tiny farmhouse with so much love the kids never realized they were poor; and one being the sole breadwinner (because of the health of my grandfather) yet also raising a family, running the household, and growing most of their own food in the North Carolina countryside.
Needless to say, these were not women of wealth, nor were they famous, nor did they come from a long line of families significant according to the world’s standards.
What they did have in common is that they were ordinary women with extraordinary strength.
And as I reflect back on these amazing women, I have been able to see some common threads in their lessons and their influence.
And, in fact, it is threads, literally threads, that run through the story.
Memories of all the women in my life include a needle and thread.
Quilting, sewing tatting, crocheting, embroidering—always a needle in hand.
Not fancy but practical, yet somehow making something beautiful out of the plain.
I have whimsical tea towels made from bleached and hemmed flour sacks and then embroidered with bright threads to bring function and fun to a hardworking kitchen.
I have quilts—not pristine and ready for framing or hanging, but tattered and worn from use, the reason for their creation was after all to keep a family warm.
Yet, frayed as they are, they tell a story not only of the dresses and aprons and shirts whose remnants comprise the quilt, but also of how loved and necessary they were for life.
Cotton scarves, adorned with lovely crochet or tatting, covered well-worn dressers, and intricate crocheted antimacassars protected the backs and arms of chairs that likely would need to last for many years.
Yes, needle and thread have stitched significant lessons into my life from the hands of very strong and very ordinary women with extraordinary love to share.
These women not only taught me how to use the needles and thread to create a variety of lovely things, but the lessons from stitching far exceeded the handiwork.
One stitch at a time, I learned the value of patience; I learned to be grateful in the moment and to offer my best to make each moment better.
One stitch at a time I learned that a life woven in love doesn’t have to be flawless or fancy in order to fill the needs of those around me.
One stitch at a time, I learned that the ordinary can often be extraordinary!
This year Presbyterian women have the opportunity to reflect together on the women in Matthew’s genealogy and using that as a springboard we can take an honest look at our own family trees.
Whether your tree is filled with folks you are proud to claim or embarrassed to include, take some time to look back.
God works in wondrous ways.
We just need to be open to the lessons.
Rev. Dr. Judy Yates Siker is a recently retired professor of New Testament and an ordained PCUSA minister. In addition to teaching New Testament and Christian Origins for many years at both the university and seminary levels, most recently at Loyola Marymount University (LMU) in Los Angeles, California and San Francisco Theological Seminary (SFTS) in northern California (where she served as Vice President), Judy has spent much time teaching, preaching and leading spiritual retreats throughout California and across the United States. Dr. Siker has publications geared both to the academy and the church. Her most recent publication for the church, Who Is Jesus? What a Difference a Lens Makes, was the 2016-2017 Bible Study for Presbyterian Women across the US.
Judy is married to Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Siker who is also recently retired from LMU and they have five children and three grandchildren. The Sikers have recently moved to Raleigh, NC where, in addition to enjoying the delights of retirement, Judy currently serves as a National Consultant for the Theological Education Fund for PCUSA. She is also working part-time as Parish Associate at White Memorial Presbyterian Church in Raleigh where, along with the other pastors, Judy shares responsibilities for leading worship, preaching, teaching, counseling, and providing pastoral care.