Having finished a full-sized quilt and four Christmas table runners, I knew it was time to clean
my sewing machine of accumulated lint and thread ends. Besides it was making clunking
noises like an old Farmall tractor laboring under the load of the plow. Diligently, I gathered up
the requisite tools of cleaning: A can of fine-grade machine oil, a paper towel to catch the drips
and clean the sewing table, a Q-tip to deliver oil to jets inaccessible to the spout of the can, and
a small chisel blade screw driver to remove the throat plate to expose the bobbin race. I was

Sure enough, lint packed the teeth of the feed dogs and the small spaces around the shuttle. I
removed the needle and the shuttle race and flicked the lint out with the point of the
screwdriver. Then I extracted lint from every surface and crevice of the motor and works inside
the machine as I had done for forty years. I could almost do the job in my sleep.

When I was sure the machine was well oiled and purring like a fine automobile engine, I
reassembled the works, satisfied that many more quilts and table runners would emanate from
the needle of this old machine. Loading the top thread, dropping in the bobbin and admiring the
shining surfaces, I placed a scrap of muslin under the presser foot to check the stitch quality.

The first try resulted in no stitch at all! Surprised, I checked the needle placement. Was it
inserted into the needle shaft too far? I readjusted it, and tried the scrap again. No stitches.
Again. No stitches. I was totally dumbfounded and exasperated by now.  After an hour or more
of peering at the bobbin as I slowly worked the needle up and down, checking the needle
placement, and everything else I could check, I resigned myself that finally the old machine had
worn out the bobbin race and would have to be repaired or replaced.

Leaving the sewing room, but not the problem, I retreated to watch the news on television, but
my mind was still going through the steps of reassembling the machine. In my mind, I counted
off the steps in the procedure one by one, and finally arrived at the point that the needle was
the culprit. So I went to the sewing notions drawer and retrieved the instruction book stiff with
age and seriously coffee stained from use.

Turning to the page discussing the size, use and insertion of the needles, the answer jumped
off the page at me: Insert the needle with the flat side away from you. I knew what I had done
wrong, only missing the orientation of needle placement by a micro-measurement, but enough
so that the thread would not be delivered in such an way as to allow the bobbin thread to be
picked up for a completed stitch.

Sometimes, we operate our spiritual and Christian service lives like a needle that is a
micro-measurement out of orientation, and we cannot make the connections of completion
necessary to live Christian lives. The needle is like our words, sharp and penetrating or fine
and true. The bobbin is like our actions, reinforcing the words and supporting them or allowing
them to just lie there. If the tension, that is, the adjustment between the two is not correct, we
may not have the intended result: No stitch, no connection. Bobbin tension too tight? Actions
too strong or misunderstood; a bad stitch results. Top thread tension too tight or loose? Strong
or weak words not backed by appropriate actions; we are not believed; and therefore, no stitch
-connection- is made or an undesired outcome is the result: We cannot sincerely reach out to
the needy, the grieving, or the lonely.

How much more beautiful than a quilt is a comforted grieving heart? How much more lovely
than a festive table runner is an encouraged heartbroken friend? Maybe we cannot even
connect with the One who comforts and heals our own needs and hurts because we have
forgotten to "read the instructions". How much more valuable than a designer-made garment is
our own spirit when we read the Word and know that God cares for us as we should care for
others. Even though we are Christians and think we know the Bible -the instruction book for us,
we forget to study it over and over again for a clear understanding of how we should be
operating to make those beautiful "completed stitches" with our fellow men in their times of

I know that I will never again look at the simple act of threading a needle or sewing a quilt or
table runner in the same way as before this last cleaning exercise!  I know that my words must
match my deeds, and both must be properly oriented to the desired outcome as dictated by
God's plan: That of helping our fellow man as we would want to be helped.

Now that's a great stitch, a great connection!
A Stitch in Time ...
Mends a Broken Heart!
© Betty Sue Eaton


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