I love to cross stitch. I’ve tried a lot of crafty hobbies over the years: crochet (I made one decent-looking throw, but was bored to tears), knitting (I never got past one crooked 4-inch square), ceramics (too expensive), stamping (too boring), embroidery (too complicated). The day a friend introduced me to cross stitch, there was love in the air.

I am not by nature an artistic person. I have one little dopey dog I can draw and impressed my children with (only the first time, though). Otherwise, I am delegated to stick people. And not very good stick people at that. A lovely person who was an accomplished decorative artist once told me as I marveled over her work, “Oh, you could do this.” Somehow I avoided spitting when I snorted. What. Ever. Do all artists say that? “Oh, anyone can do this!” Liar liar pants on fire. False modesty if you ask me.

But I digress.

Cross stitch, I understood, simply follows a pattern of Xs. There’s no extra creativity involved. This sounded promising.

The first thing I ever cross stitched was a butterfly. I had a plain whte fabric, the weave of which created rows of little white boxes, and a pattern on paper with symbols in rows of little white boxes. Trained by my friend, I proceeded: Look at pattern. Look at key. Little red circle symbol = thread number 322 (light blue). Every time you see that little red circle in the box on the pattern, you create a little light blue X on the fabric in the corresponding square.

Easy cheesy.

At first it looked like nothing and I was despairing that I had bunged yet another potential hobby. I continued obediently, however, placing my Xs, having faith that what I’d been told was true: it would eventually become a butterfly.

When I finished with the Xs, I could barely make out an indistinct butterfly, but it was mostly just a mass of color. The next stage of the process is the outlining, called “backstitching” in cross stitch. This is where you follow the lines drawn on the paper pattern and create lines (no more Xs!) on the fabric.

And suddenly…butterfly. Like magic. The more backstitching, the more the detail popped out. Still, it wasn’t perfect. It seemed a bit choppy and rough. I set the stitching down for a moment and left the room. When I came back, looking at my work from several feet away, I clearly saw a detailed and beautiful butterfly. Up close, I was still seeing individual boxes. From a distance, it all blended into a whole.

I walk a life of cross stitch. Some days I simply cannot see the big picture and can only place my feet and my Xs obediently into the squares I am directed toward. Often it doesn’t make sense and I’m not even sure I’m doing it right. But I continue to move forward in faith and pray that if I’m messing up, I’ll find out and pull those threads before I get too far. The smaller backstitching details make it a tad easier to get the picture, but it can still be pretty blurry.

And then, as time allows me to step away from my life’s picture, I can look back and see in gorgeous detail what God saw all along. His is the vantage point I have to rely on. He can see what I cannot.

Once I was working on a particularly dense pattern, most boxes on the fabric covered with multi-colored Xs. The little one came up and hung over my shoulder, her head tipping in confusion as she looked at the hooped fabric in my hands.

“Step back,” I told her gently. She obediently took a few steps away and I held the fabric up for her to see.

Her eyes widened with understanding and then pleasure. “Oh…” she breathed.

How pleased God must be when He hears that from me.


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