Thursday, October 19, 2017

How a sweater moved me to prayer (from the archives)

We hug goodbye in the dark, on the front porch before school. My bare arms around them feel a chill, and I make them wait while I find their fall jackets. “We’re fine,” they insist, but I make them wear them, because I am cold, and because I said so.

The house is open today, and cool fall breeze blows away the musty smells of children and sweat and work. It is time to dig out the fall clothes.

Sometimes I wonder if God does the loaves-and-fishes miracle in my basement each season. Again this year, my shopping list is short. Again they will be clothed like the lilies of the field, and we have more than we need.

The too-short pants make a large pile.  
The long sleeves fit snugly in the drawers. 
I anticipate soft-sweatered hugs.

They try things on for me, and I hear their opinions.
"Oh I love this sweater! Look, Seth!"  It is soft, navy blue, with light blue stripes across the chest. It will compliment his blue eyes, and I can’t wait to take a picture of him in it.
He looks at it suspiciously.
"Hmmm,” he says. He holds it up and wrinkles his nose. Then he looks in my hopeful eyes.  “Well, we can keep it and I can wear it on Saturdays.”  I smile, and he clarifies, “Only on Saturdays when nobody's coming over."
And I resign. He is old enough to have opinions now, and I give him freedom. I will give the sweater away, but I will also enjoy his blue eyes. He doesn't have to know.

I open the baby’s drawer. He’s not a baby, I remind myself. He is two. I see cute PJs with feet that will not fit him this year. He is bigger now, too big for that.

And then, I take out the sweater, the one with the stripes, and I realize it is too small for him. There are many sweaters, but this particular sweater makes me pause.

This sweater was a hand-me-down. And even so, it has been worn by all six of my children. Six kids grew into it and then out of it again. And now the smallest has grown out of it.

My first baby.
Aggie, my second baby.
and then there were three.

Three, and then four, five, six. 

In and out of boxes, on and off bodies it's been, time and again. 
I imagine the stains, the yogurt blobs and the slobber and the pumpkin guts. Again and again it was washed, dried,and put on little bodies, my favorite bodies in the world.

And it kept them warm.

But they've outgrown it now. 
They still need warmth, but not from you, sweater.

And I try not to identify with the sweater, try not to think of the day they will grow out of me, the day when they will need warmth and love, but they will be too big to be satisfied with only mine.

The fall wind blows and the leaves rustle as I fold the sweater, slowly.
I gaze past the bunk beds, through the window, and I watch the bright colors fall.

Again I pray, 
Father, grow me up as you grow them up.
Teach me to rejoice in the changing of seasons.

Do you reminisce when you get out the fall clothes?
How do you feel about the changing of seasons?


  1. Oh, how precious, that sweater on all of them. Sweet post, Emily.

  2. Very Sweet! I'm reminded of a quote that I love by Dr. Seuss, "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened." I'm a mother of 5 grown children...Love to you dear friend, during this season of our lives!

  3. I loved seeing the photos of each child in the same sweater. I can relate to going through the boxes every year. Bless you.

  4. I do get a bit emotional when I bring out the little clothes my girls have grown out of! It is hard to let go of items that hold memories of a time when they were tiny. It is hard to throw out an item of clothing that I felt so comfortable to see them in. Funny how we can develop soul ties to clothing. Hmmm....


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