T-shirt dress

Amy tie-dyed this adult-size t-shirt at Earthworks camp last summer. I finally got around to turning it into a dress for her. I cut off the body of the t-shirt at the bottom of the sleeves, then used an existing dress to cut arm holes on the top. Then, of course, I carefully sewed the skirt to the wrong side of the top. After picking out that seam, I did it again the right way. Turned a narrow hem on the armholes and stitched it down. Ta da!

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Chasuble

I made a chasuble. The one our priest wears has pilled a bit and catches on things, leaving snags. Most chasubles are lined, which is very tricky, trying to make sure the lining doesn’t hang below the outer layer, trying to match all the edges perfectly, etc. He prefers an unlined one, which I thought I could manage.

Here it is with one of his stoles:

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I chose a linen-look polyester-rayon blend, and because it is such a light cream color, edged it in gold satin to provide contrast against the white alb he wears underneath. The gold edging has the added benefit of emphasizing the lovely folds the fabric falls into. I have one of those bias tape makers you pull the fabric tape through as you iron, and was pleased to find that it worked nicely even with something as slippery as satin. Amy has cast her eye upon the shiny gold and asked if I could make a dress for her from the leftovers — I am not sure I have enough for a dress, but maybe a skirt at least.

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The neck was the hardest part. I have never used piping before. My zipper foot is missing a nut, so I wasn’t able to make the piping on the machine; didn’t take TOO long to hand-stitch it. Then I sewed the piping to the chasuble neck opening and trimmed the seam allowances. Attaching the top of the facing wasn’t too difficult, except for the two sides where the pieces of piping overlap — I did that bit by hand with a ladder stitch. The most challenging part was getting the bottom of the facing turned under and pinned smoothly. It would not cooperate. It insisted on buckling in as many ways as it could. After many attempts, I turned to the iron — and the facing’s lower edge breathed a sigh and lay down gently.

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Our priest is pleased with it and plans to wear it for midweek mass tomorrow evening. I hope this fabric performs better than the other one. I’ll try to remember to bring my camera and get a picture of him wearing it before or after mass.

Utterly safe place

Last year I read Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy. I got bogged down in the first few chapters, but found the rest of it interesting, very challenging, and potentially very hopeful. The basic gist is that if we really think Jesus is the Son of God, we ought to pay attention to what he has said, and try to live by it — and that doing so doesn’t mean legalism, but something more like supported habit-training.

One bit that came up a few times was the idea that the universe is an utterly safe place for us to be, because God is there — here — all around us like the air. And that God is utterly full of joy — not unfamiliar with sorrow and all, but that his joy is so firmly founded that his sorrow can be fully itself in the midst of his irrevocable joy.

I don’t live in this utterly safe and joyful universe.

I would like to. And I am open to doing so more and more, and looking for and practicing that supported habit-training.

I have written before, I think, about Tim Cornwell, the youth pastor I volunteered with when we lived in Virginia, and how he dealt with wiggly distractible middle schoolers. He was able to invite them to step out into the hallway to take a break, get their wiggles out, get their bodies ready again, and then return to the group — in a way that was not a threat, had not a hint of shame, but was a sincere, dignified invitation, an acknowledgment of a legitimate need and an appropriate way to meet that need.

The same exact invitation, same words, everything, can be and often is issued with exactly a note of threat and shame in it — the expectation is that the kid recognize how badly they are behaving and pull their act together, without having to go to the extreme of stepping out of the room.

In the same way, it is easy to take such an invitation, even if delivered the way Tim did it, as a threat, scornful and shaming. I think we are used to it. Threats and scorn and shame are often delivered in phrases that sound polite, perfectly correct, with words that ought to indicate a real opportunity but are really intended as an ultimatum or a “don’t you dare.”

Amy is quick to get on the defensive. Quick to feel attacked, rejected, dismissed, disliked, enslaved, oppressed, shamed, etc. Sometimes no matter how well I think I am delivering certain information — warmly, calmly, lovingly — she will take it defensively. Sometimes she’s right; sometimes my chosen, intentional words and tone of voice can’t cover the fact that I am feeling irritated and scornful. And of course there are also times where I can’t or won’t control words and tone of voice.

And, what seems both odd and perfectly understandable, is that I am the same way.

Coming from a peer, a lot of the things Amy says and does when she is unhappy about something would be serious threats, insults, attacks, and just plain rude — not to mention the unfairness of turning everything back on me (“well YOU shouldn’t / did / etc”). But Amy is not my peer. She’s a little kid. An extremely clever and articulate little kid, but still a little kid. That doesn’t make it okay for her to treat me badly, but it does mean she’s not deliberately malicious — more likely afraid (of not being good enough, of facing her own sense of remorse, of being rejected) or frustrated (having to do what she doesn’t want to do, unable to do what she wants, not meeting expectations internal or external) and her loud and defiant expressions just happen to be the way it comes out.

It also happens that loud and defiant are really really hard on me. As are rude, personal attacks, getting in my face… and even persistent argument and negotiation, and even more, limp sullen resistance.

If I lived in the utterly safe and joyful universe, all of these things could be, without unnerving and provoking me quite so much.

I could handle what Amy dishes out without taking it personally, without being manipulated or cowed or worn down by it, and could respond in ways that would be helpful to her — to provide reassurance against her fears, hope and acceptance and confidence against her frustrations, and guidance to develop habits of expression that will serve her better in her relationships. I could see my own irritation and scorn with compassion and grace, hold them kindly and tenderly, let go of them more easily, with less sense of self-condemnation and pressure. I could see my own depletion earlier, and take steps to replenish myself. And if I could do all of that, perhaps Amy would grow less prone to fear, frustration, and her own defensive scorn.

What does scorn do? It protects against vulnerability to being wounded by rude attacks, including the scorn of others. It withers the opposition, to something unworthy of notice, something inferior, shameful, wrong, betraying frustration. It bolsters pride and a sense of security; betraying fear.

In utter safety and joy, there is no need to fear the scorn of others and no need to resort to scorn ourselves. In Willard’s chapters on the Sermon on the Mount, he talks about the call to abandon habits of anger and contempt and threats and manipulation.

“Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy, for we have had more than enough of contempt…” (Ps 123:4)

I suspect I have written this post before.

Baptism

Yesterday our Godly Play lesson was about baptism.

There were rather a lot of materials to gather for this one! Three white circles for the Trinity, the pitcher and basin for the Father and Creator, the Paschal candle for the Son and Redeemer, and a dove and fragrant oil for the Spirit and Sustainer; plus a baby doll wrapped in white, smaller candles, matches, and a snuffer.

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Lacking small white candles or a big white Christ candle, I improvised. While our breakfast apple crisp was in the oven, I softened some modeling beeswax on top of it, and used some of the yellow to make the cross to apply to the pale green candle — a model Paschal candle, which our church uses at baptisms. For our model baby and for Amy and me, I used the only other candles in the house. Our candle snuffer is a tablespoon. Our vial of fragrant oil was this orange-infused EVOO. The dove was formed from the same beeswax.

Amy, meanwhile, enjoyed making various creations from the other pieces of beeswax. Three people in the back row, and on the bottom row from left to right: Bed, baby cobra, evil eagle, baby, chalice, airplane, and purse.

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After every lesson, Amy wants to do her own presentation of the materials. We don’t have art materials, practical life activities, or other response items in a dedicated Godly Play space — perhaps I ought to consider gathering a few such for each lesson and see if she ever chooses such works for the response time. With just the two of us, I don’t ever get to sit back and observe from any distance — her presentations always require me as audience.

Fixed. Sort of. For now.

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The zipper on my eleven-year-old dulcimer case finally quit. No matter what I do to lubricate the zipper teeth or tighten the pulls, the zipper stays stubbornly separated. Tired of closing the case with a couple dozen quilt-basting safety pins, I found two long zippers in my sewing supplies, both from bedding packages, and stitched them to the existing zipper. So far, so good. Certainly better than all those pins!