He and I discussed how the Lord works in our lives when we don't even know it. We talked about times in our own lives when we looked back and could see how the Lord had led us, protected us and guided us, even though we might not have thought He was, might not have been asking Him to, or perhaps didn't even know Him at the time. But He knew us.
Our conversation reminded me of a cross stitch picture which has hung in our living room for almost seventeen years.
Now for those of you who don't know, let me tell you what a cross-stitch picture is. Cross-stitch uses small x-shaped stitches to form a picture. This picture is a type of counted cross stitch, which means the pattern is not printed on the canvas, but the person stitching must count the threads of the canvas in each direction to find where each stitch should go. Then the outline is stitched in place.
The cross stitch picture in my living room took three years to complete. It didn't take three years to sew, it took three years because at times I would get frustrated and put it on the shelf in the closet for months at a time.
Let me explain why I was frustrated. The directions I had which would tell me where each stitch should go was not the original set of instructions, it was a photocopy. I didn't know until the picture was almost finished that the original directions were printed in black AND red. The black symbols represented instructions for one set of colors and the red for another.
Because they were incomplete, there were times I couldn't make any sense of the instructions. The colors just didn't seem to go where the directions indicated. The outlines just didn't seem to be in the right places. Often I couldn't even make any sense of the picture that was unfolding before my eyes.
I was certain I had made incredible mistakes, and frustrated, would put the canvas away. Weeks later, my desire to have the piece finished would cause me to pull it out and tackle it again.
Looking at the picture, one would never guess I had inadequate instructions along the way. I think the only discernable traces of the mistake is in her eyes. By the directions, she should have had green eyes and they ended up brown. But since all three of my children inherited my husband's green eyes, I joke that this is my only brown-eyed "child". Shortly after the picture was finished, my children named her Jennifer.
If I could remove Jennifer's frame and show you the back of the canvas, you would see the knots and tangled threads, the crossed threads and mistakes which are so easily visible there. But they aren't visible from the front.
That's how it is with our lives. We look at our lives and we see all the tangled threads, all the knots and loose ends. . .we can't imagine how the Lord can ever make anything worth while of the mess we have made with things. But as Mr. Howell and I said, the Lord is always working in our lives, working things out for good. . .working to "will and to do of His good pleasure" as Paul told the Philippians. He is always weaving in our lives that which is ultimately for our best.
When we look at the tangled threads and knotted messes of our lives, we have to remember, we are looking at our life from our side. We need to remember there is a "God side" to our life as well, and one day He will turn the frame of our lives over and show us what He has wrought in and through us.
Sometimes we get glimpses here and there, but one day we shall "know even as we are known." The frame will be turned.
The Frame Is Turned
There were times I saw His hand weaving in my days,
Untying knots I had wrought with all my struggling ways.
There were times I wondered as His threads entwined,
Or questioned as I watched Him trace the faint outline.
Then the frame was turned,
And I could see,
The work His tender hand
Wrought deep in me.
Things I questioned once, now became such a beauty;
The threads and knots He tied, a canvas of tapestry.
His plan for me was known, a secret now revealed,
His love spread to me and my heart His Spirit sealed.
Now my life is turned,
And I can see,
The touch His tender hand
Works deep in me.
Incomplete my canvas yet, He still pulls the threads.
But my heart is sure, I can trust where'er I'm led.
He weaves His hand and leads me safely in His ways;
He weaves His love to bring forth prayer, to bring forth praise.
My life is in His frame,
For all to see.
I am no more the same,
He's deep in me.
I am no more the same,
He lives in me.