The 19 Year Afghan: A Personal Narrative

I’ve been told that people think I’m fragile and/or dramatic because I am so open with my personal struggles. I am a lot of things, but fragile is not one of them. Fragile like a bomb, maybe(LOL. Totally kidding). Dramatic? I don’t know. I’m a pretty serious person. I don’t enjoy drama, but I’m always open to growing in self-awareness.

So if you’re reading this, and you find yourself asking, “Is she okay?” Ha. I’m fine. I’ve just hit a major milestone, and I’m all caught up in reflection. Besides, the reason I’m so open is because I have no shame about my life, and I hope it’ll help someone else. What else is pain good for if it doesn’t end in beauty?

On Christmas evening, Decemeber 25, 2020, I finished an afghan I started 19 years ago. Yep, NINETEEN YEARS.

It really did feel like a Christmas miracle. It was a hilarious scene. I was crocheting away at my mom’s while everyone was in their Christmas food comas, and I think Dustin must have alerted everyone that I was nearing the end of the last row. My whole family walked into the dining room and started a slow clap to help me see it through. God love them.

I nearly cried on the last stitch as they all congratulated me and laughed about the end of the 19 year afghan. I laughed too, because who takes that long to make an afghan? And who actually sticks with a project that long? I think most people would cut their losses and move on.

Although the moment was pretty hilarious and amazing, I found myself actually being really emotional about it. Why, though?

Let’s go back 19 years, shall we? I was 16.

All other things aside, I was tall and awkward. Check on tall, awkward, Christian girls with frizzy hair. Teenage boys are mean.

But 16 was a really dark time in my life for other reasons that aren’t as common.

I was newly processing the tragic death of my birth mother and the sense of abandonment that results from a parent committing suicide. Add to that the fact that my older brother was in jail and decided to send me a letter at Christmas telling me what a horrible sister I was for not writing. He didn’t know how sad I was or how many times I sat down to start a letter that ended in a puddle of guilt and grief filled tears. I tried. I really did.

At the young age of 16, I was positive I was worthless. My mother didn’t have the strength to stick around, and my brother’s way of processing abandonment was breaking the law and therefore being absent. On the other hand, my way of processing was perfectionism and hard work in all the AP classes, part time jobs, and extracurricular activities. Looking back, it’s a wonder I survived, since I’m a compulsive introvert. Thanks to AP Language Arts, I did an in-depth study of Silvia Plath’s The Bell Jar that year. So not only was I completely depressed and heartbroken, I was privy to all the ways a person could end her life. I thought about ending mine constantly.

Like I said, 16 was a really dark time.

BUT GOD.

This is where the 19 year afghan comes in.

God was walking with me every single step of that awful time. He walked a wonderful woman of God into my life and used a new craft to speak love into my heart. Floydine didn’t have kids my age. I don’t even know why she took an interest in me other than her love for Jesus and others. Maybe my mom who raised me asked her to spend time with me. Looking back I can see all the ways my dad and mom were incredible at helping a kid through trauma.

Anyway, Floydine told me she would teach me to crochet, and she did. She found a pattern simple enough for a beginner and took me to one of the big craft stores and purchased the yarn I would need. She sat with me through the 200-ish chain stitches and the first rows (God bless her for that patience!). I remember just feeling so loved. In a time that was very painful and dark, she made me feel like I mattered. She was being the hands and feet of Jesus with crochet hooks and yarn.

I got a good start on that afghan that winter, and I worked on it little bits at a time each winter after. You may call it procrastination, but I call it perseverance. Single crochet is SO TEDIOUS.

The afghan moved to college with me and to the 9 or so other places I have lived since. It was a reminder that I was loved through all sorts of heartache and healing. Through the years of loneliness, the loss of my brother to an overdose, years of counseling and growth, marital challenges, financial devastations, pregnancies, and raising babies.

It did feel like a burden at times, because the fact that it wasn’t finished made me feel like a failure. But I’m so glad I didn’t give up. Every year, I told myself, “This will be the year.” I’m still a little shocked that this year was, in fact, THE year.

I thought finishing was just going to be a relief because I could put the yarn and hooks away and just enjoy the warmth of this beautiful afghan. But over the weekend, I learned that finishing taught me some profound lessons.

  • Finishing a big project is amazing and gives a sense of deep satisfaction, even if it takes a ridiculous amount of time.
  • I am a work in progress. Every stitch is like a day in my life. I might not be where I want to be, but I am not where I used to be. Each stitch, each day of growth, matters.
  • Ministering to hearts doesn’t always mean Bible studies and prayer. Sometimes it’s a physical act that you don’t even realize is holy. Like teaching a tall, awkward girl to crochet in the middle of her chaos.

This project is a reminder of all the creative ways God walked me through the hardships of this life. It’s a reminder that He used Floydine to speak the truth that I am loved when the world was telling me I was not. So it’s an afghan, but it’s more than an afghan.

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