And after all that preparation, after sharing our stories and playing together, it got hard. In order to stabilize the weavings we had to sew every warp piece to the one next to it—by hand. There was no other way, no short cut. We had to show up and put in the work, we worked side by side and we built relationships. We were in the lobby every day except Sundays, for 7-9 hours a day for 4 weeks. 67 different people showed up to volunteer. Many came numerous times.
This is the part that scared me. I knew it would. Much of my work I do alone. Community pinches me. At this point the tapestries held my fears: that I don’t belong and would never be able to break in, that I would fail. But early in this process someone came and she sewed quietly. I worried about how to entertain her, what to say? After several hours she thanked me for providing a space where she could sit with women and just be, where she didn’t have to talk. And just like that the Lord released me. Instead, I prayed every morning that He Himself would offer hospitality, that the lobby would be a safe place and that everyone would feel welcome here. And every single day He brought people who needed one another to sew next to each other. We shared lives, good books, good movies, recipes...
While I stitched in the lobby, a man came by. “You’re listening to stories? I have a story.” “It’s too late to write it into the tapestry,” I told him, “but if I can keep working while you tell me I will stitch it into this piece.” A total of 73 people over 4 weeks stopped by just to tell their stories. Their stories are just as much a part of this work as the ones written and they bring the total number in the tapestries to almost 400.
The lobby became a sacred space. One woman walking through said, “There is a stillness here, a peace. I can hear the women talking, so it isn’t quiet that I am feeling. No, it’s stillness.”
Someone said, “When you get these pieces up no one will know how much work really went into them.” But isn’t that true for every single ministry in the church? How many people really know how much work is done behind the scenes to pull off any act of love or kindness, any ministry, or even a sermon?
This started as an offering to the Lord, and a project to illustrate community. It became a love letter to my church:
To all those people who said, “I would never put so much work into something” as they walked through on their way to put just as much work into preparing for their ministry. I see you. To those people whose stories filled my heart. Yes, it was a love letter. But, in the end, I was the one most blessed. By your courage as you face every day. By your faith as you hold onto God’s promises. By your love for your families and neighbors. And by the dear people who came and sewed beside me, offering their friendship. Thank you. I see Jesus in you.
This is the playlist we used off and on while we sewed. In many ways our songs were prayers. The songs are related to the stories, people and hopes invested in the weavings.