A Certain Order of Things…....

By: Ramshankar


Adventure looms close on my personal horizon. Vacation time arrives next week and I am traveling to a place I have never been before, the Western United States. I'd watched a PBS special last summer and felt a distinct pull to go to Yosemite National Park this year. Although that is not my destination, I feel I have kept an important promise to myself of which I am still in the process of discerning. I'll get back to you with the details on that as they unfold. What I've realized as I've begun the usual pre-trip preparations is how easy it is to slide off course or step off the trail when we are distracted by things in the distance, or things in the distant past, that are a part of our lives, but don't necessarily inform or contribute to what we need to be doing for ourselves right how. At least by logical standards.

As I've been cleaning, organizing, paying bills, sorting clothing and arranging for cat care, as I am wont to do before any trip, I found my mind drifting to a time when I sewed all my own clothes. Now, I stick to curtains, napkins, pillows, simple things that add some extra touches to my home and some buoyancy to my spirit, but don't take a whole lot of time to produce. Although sewing is one of those old-fashioned skills, sort of like playing the piano if you are not a professional musician, which I also do, I'm glad to have some practical skills with which to surprise people now and again. Both the sewing and the piano playing taught me some life lessons, but it is the skill of sewing that taught me the whole process of creating an envisioned project and the steps needed to take to feel the joyous satisfaction of successful completion.

Creating a new dress or top started with seeing a great style on someone else - a classmate, a television star or a model in the Sears catalogue - that looked fantastic. Sometimes the item was on the third floor of the downtown department store. "Off the rack" meant my parents usually couldn't afford it and it wouldn't fit anyway. In those days, small-town stores only carried sizes in the range they could sell, so those simple realities sent me to the basement of said downtown store to see if the pattern companies, Butterick, Simplicity or McCalls, had kept up with the times closely enough to help me out. If they had, then there were choices to make for fabric and any additional materials I would need, like buttons, zippers and thread, and braid or ribbon trims.

Back home with the goods, the project began in full force. Reading the instructions, laying out the fabric, pinning the pattern and cutting out the pieces then led to marking button holes, gathering points and hem lengths. After all the preparation was completed, the pattern pieces could be removed and the construction process begun. The sewing machine came out, the instructions were pulled back out of the package, and step-by-step, what was once only a dream transformed to a hope, and finally embodied the promise of something special, something I could claim as my own creation and wear whenever I wanted to.

Of course this entire scenario is dependent upon following the instructions and working with the pattern as your experience grows. Experience, of course, is usually born of trial and error, and of a firm teenage belief that you have a short cut that will save time and allow you to wear your new garment that much faster. Measure twice, cut once applies here too, as does think before you act.

Which brings me back to cleaning, organizing, paying bills, sorting clothing and arranging for cat care as I continue to prepare for my trip. As I follow my routine and manage the larger routine of the rest of this thing called my life, I sometimes wonder how to keep everything on track, and how I've managed to do so to this point. It feels very easy to get distracted by old patterns that no longer fit or were missing pieces that had to be adjusted for along the way. Sometimes it feels right to go back to my old friends in the pattern department, the Buttericks, the Simplicitys and the McCalls and just say hi, and see if there are some new patterns that might be a better fit for me now. The fabric section also speaks its mind, inviting me over with rich colors and textures.

What continues to delight and charm me, in this whole sense of life as a creatively abundant process, is God's consistency in helping us work with our own plans and God's plan with all of us together. "I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted (Job 42:2)," comes at the end of all of Job's miseries. This is a man who had to rework the pattern over and over, and struggled with how to make the falling-apart pieces of his life make sense with his faith in God who he believed loved him and had blessed his life in every way possible. Step-by-step, Job did find his way along, completing his projects and moving on to the next as he and God decided.

In his book, The Last Unicorn, Peter S. Beagle also speaks to this sense of order and timing in our lives, using his character, the Prince, to express the yearnings of many of our souls to get our lives right and find our way to a happy ending.

"My Lady," he said, "I am a hero. It is a trade, like weaving or brewing, and like them it has its own tricks and knacks and small arts. There are ways of perceiving witches and knowing poison streams. There are certain weak spots that all dragons have and certain riddles that hooded strangers tend to set you. But the true secret of being a hero lies in knowing the order of things. The swineherd cannot be wed to the princess before he embarks on his adventures. Nor can the boy knock on the witch's door while she is away on vacation. The wicked uncle cannot be found out and foiled before he does something wicked. Things must happen when it is time for them to happen. Quests may not simply be abandoned. Prophecies may not be left to rot like unpicked fruit. Unicorns may go unrescued for a long time, but not forever. The happy ending cannot come in the middle of the story (p. 212.)"

God has a way of reminding us that there is often more to come before the plan is successfully completed.

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