Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Flip Side of a Cleansing Breath

 The Flip Side of a Cleansing Breath

I didn’t tell you that while we were vacationing at the Jersey shore I found an antique vase (chipped and inexpensive) in a bayside boutique. I was charmed by it. I pictured it on the windowsill of our parlor.

 There is something else I didn’t tell you. The day I was sitting on the beach for an hour of knitting bliss (on a previous post), is the same day Dean was taken to the hospital. After supper he had intensifying pain. A telephone call to our GP in Pennsylvania revealed that it could be gall bladder. At 8 o'clock my father drove us to the ER. Since the island has many more times that amount of people in August than it does any other time of the year (especially on the week-end) the ER was crowded. Dean was attended to, thankfully, when I brought his needs intermittently to the attention of the staff. I am naturally unassertive but will step out of my comfort zone for those I love.

 Come midnight I urged my father to leave. All that separated Dean’s narrow bed from another patient was a curtain. On the other side of the curtain a little boy age 3, the same age as our grandson, was rushed in. He was suffering a seizure. It took a team of doctors and nurses quite a while to calm the seizure before he was transferred to a larger hospital. His mother’s face was red with tears. I prayed, begging God for my poor Dean. His pain was terrible. I also prayed for the little boy.

At 4 o’clock in the morning one groggy hubby was doing better and released. Our son-in-law, who had come to the Jersey shore with my daughter for the weekend, retrieved us. The day was dawning when we lumbered up the steps to my parent’s bungalow numb with tiredness. It was a sleepless night but a beautiful morning. I was thankful.

Back in Pennsylvania I knitted during Dean’s scheduled doctor appointments. Waiting rooms are good places for knitting. I embellished this easy pattern with a Fair Isle design referred to as strawberry flowers by Norwegian knitters since ages past. Changing colors and twisting in the back of the knitting goes slowly. But this only lasts a dozen rows or so and adds interest for the knitter.

While I waited for a good time to seam my pieces Hurricane Irene began its path up the east coast. My mother telephoned. She and Dad were being evacuated from their bungalow, as was all of Long Beach Island. “Please come and stay with us, of course,” I told her, “The spare room is ready for you.” They came with an extra suitcase of valuables in the event their home, a block from the beach, was destroyed.

Tall forest trees surround our house. When the high winds of the hurricane hit it roared in the trees. At night I saw in the dim light that the trees were swaying alarmingly. It was frightening. The electricity had failed at 3 am. I had prepared for this. Before going to bed I had turned our two refrigerators into iceboxes with frozen jugs of water from the deep freeze. I was busy. While I made lasagna for supper I had baked a loaf of wheat bread (in the bread machine) and made my orange-cranberry quick-bread usually reserved for Christmas mornings.

“I don’t want you to fuss over us,” my mother told me as she watched me level off the flour with the back of a knife.  

“I have too few opportunities to fuss over you,” I told her and stopped to give her a floury hug.

After supper I had arranged the table with nonperishables and candles for the following day. Mixed nuts and fruit such as early local apples gave the table a rustic harvest time feel.

By morning the wind had subsided to a strong breeze. Without electricity the men were restless. They wished there were a battery-powered radio in the house somewhere. Under the surface of their composure I knew my parents were really very nervous. While we waited to hear news my mother sat knitting by a window. I took the opportunity to seam my sweater. The heavy clouds made the house shadowy. The only light bright enough for seaming was under the skylight in the kitchen. So I sat at the table. Most knitters would rather knit than seam. I am one of them. But I was happy when I attached the ties at last and held it up for my mother to see.

This is a frugal “use-it-up” sweater. I had estimated that I had enough leftover yarn from other projects to make the 18-month size. The yarns were all worsted but on close inspection of slightly different weights. It is not advisable to combine odds & ends, as they can bring a different tension to the rows, but I took the risk. The different yarns did give the strawberry flowers an ill-fitted tug in places but it came out fine.

When the electricity was restored my parents were relieved to hear a positive news report of the Jersey shore. They returned the next day to a house intact. We were all thankful.

Life brings us sunshine and shadow. We feel the tug of its ill-fitted stitches because we live in a fallen and corruptible state of existence. What we see is the reverse side of the tapestry. God alone sees the front. Miss Corrie ten Boom, who was adept at embroidery, shared this tapestry parable in something of hers that I read. I wish I could tell you where.

Here you see the reverse of my knitting. When I am prone to ask God “why,” when I need encouragement to trust Him during times of stress or anxiety, I remember Miss Corrie’s tapestry. 

After the storm, with a blue sky above, I took a walk. I was intent on picking wild flowers, finally, for my new vase. Calico asters, one clover and the last of the Queen Ann’s lace helped make a wispy bouquet with garden verbena. 

Between chores I sat in the parlor with my hands folded – just for a moment – to gaze at my flowers. They looked just as I had imagined they would. It was a lovely cleansing breath.

Post Script
The cross-stitch scene of the bungalow on the beach isn’t mine. We photographed it (through plastic) last week at the country fair. It won a ribbon.

Interview with Suzanne and Karen

Suzanne at Blueberry Cottage honored me with an invitation to share on her beautiful blog. If you are curious to read a mix of my reminiscence and opinion you will find the interview on her post.

Take care,

Karen Andreola


  1. Thank goodness your parents' house was alright.

    I am sorry for Dean's pain. I can empathise - I had gallbladder problems myself. For two years I worked hard to keep it, albeit suffering bouts of indescribable agony when a food I thought safe turned out to be a trigger. In the end, I had it removed, a very simple and quick procedure, and I regretted having waited so long. My health was restored in a way I never expected. And I could eat my beloved egg sandwiches again! I wish him better luck than me in trying to keep it.

  2. I am so happy that Dean is doing better and I wish him much success with the new diet. It is never easy to see someone you love in pain, and I know how difficult that night at the ER must have been fir you both. And as a seven-time survivor if hurricanes/tropical storms here on the gulf coast, I absolutely know the relief your parents experienced on hearing the news that their home is intact. Every storm we prepare mentally and spiritually to lose everything, knowing full well that our real treasures are in Heaven. But our little earthly abodes mean something, too, and one never wants to lose their home.
    The little sweater is precious, Karen - the colors are so pretty. Nice job! Knitting is such a comfort at all times, isn't it?

  3. I'm glad to hear Dean is doing better so far. How nice that your family was nearby when it happened.

    Your peaceful post radiates calm amidst the storm. I think the tapestry image is one I want to store away for those times...


  4. I am so happy to see that you and your family were protected from the damage of the storm.
    I feel for Dean, I had my gall bladder removed when I was 22, the worst pain, worse than child birth!

    Thank you for your post, I started my fall reading, Pocketful of Pinecones, this is my 3/4th re-read. It is such a cozy book to curl up with. My fall reads every year include both of your books and Jane Eyre.
    Have a blessed week.

  5. Oh, I'm so glad your family made it through this trying (and tiring!) time. God does give us the grace to get through the troubling times. I am often amazed when I look back and see the very clear care that He has given to me and to those I love. Miss Corrie ten Boom is one of my heroes of faith. Thank you for including this remembrance of her.

    Blessings to you in this week to come,

  6. I am in complete sympathy for Dean! I had gall bladder issues for several years and had to have mine removed when I was 7 weeks pregnant with Kyle...mine was infected. :( I hope he is able to heal his and keep it.

    Your knitting is very inspiring!


    ps - we have been watching Lark Rise on dvd through Netflix. Enjoying it very much for the most part. Thank you for the heads up about certain things.

  7. What a time you've all had! Pain, fear, anxiety, stress. I'm so grateful that we have prayer to ground us and calm us.

    Your vase is beautiful. I think you chose well. That wide windowsill provides a lovely setting too.

    My husband is laughing at me because I've never thought to prepare jugs of frozen water for the refrigerator when the forcast calls for severe weather. This apparantly dull homemaker thanks you for the idea!

    I hope your life is less eventful this week!


  8. How wonderful that Dean is doing better and that Hurricane Irene was only an inconvenience and not a devastation.

    Like you, I knit or crochet when I am in hospitals or waiting at appointments. It soothes and keeps my mind calm and in prayer.

    I am glad that all of you are doing well, and that with diet and herbs, your hubby will begin to feel better.

    Lovely vase by the way :D


  9. Dear Karen,
    Sending up prayers for Dean, gallbladder problems can be so painful. Glad your parents were able to stay with you and their home was protected! That sweater is just darling! I made a similiar colored sweater for my grandaughter with little Hunca Munca buttons. I love the little strawberries worked in. I may have to copy that into a project:-)
    Thank you for the lovely interview, it was an honor to have you consent to it:-) Your the reason I homeschool using Charlotte's methods.

  10. Dear Ladies,
    Dean reads this blog and its comments faithfully - partly out of interest and partly as a gesture of protectiveness. He appreciates your well-wishes for him.

    I like to keep on the sunny side of life in my writing. In order to spotlight things like, trust, fortitude, sympathy or calm I might also give a nod to what is in the shadows.

    Last evening I added a link to Suzanne's blog Blueberry Cottage to this post. It will take you to an interview. In my answers I tried to share ideas that would offer encouragement as well as share memories personably. I supplied an update on our children, too, now ages 29, 26, 22. Where do the years go?
    I had the pleasure of meeting Suzanne when she invited Dean and I to speak to a group of home school parents.

    I am always happy to discover that you are reading my posts and liking my books, Ladies. Thank you.
    Karen A.

  11. I am so happy you are all well and safe from the storms of life. We will pray for Dean and, Lord willing, a speedy recovery. Our thought are with you all, and the little boy. God Bless.

  12. I am sorry for Dean's ill health. I do pray for the herbs to work. Milk Thistle is a real good one. My 2ds had to take it when he was little and it did wonders. It is such good news that your parents and you all weathered the storm, PTL. And what a joy it must have been to pamper your parents in a time they needed you, what a blessing.

    Your knitting is beautiful! And I loved hearing the needlework analogy. I really needed to hear that today, thank you.

    Blessings in Him<><

  13. I'm so sorry to hear of your husband's bout of ill health and pain--it must have been so hard on both of you--but glad to know he is recovering.

    Thank you for doing that lovely interview at Blueberry Cottage. I really enjoyed reading it this morning! I am commenting here rather than there because I don't wish to enter the giveaway, since I already own all your books! :)

  14. Karen,

    Your blog is always such an encouragement to me! I am praying that Dean will be able to heal naturally!

    I love your vase, it is so pretty with the flowers!

    Your knitting is beautiful! I have always loved that analogy of the backside of needlework!

    I really enjoyed your interview with Suzanne!

    Love, Heather

  15. p.s. It is nice to hear that other husbands protect their wives in this simple way of checking comments on your blog! ;o)

    Love, Heather

  16. I love the photo of you at the beginning of this post! The vase is beautiful, also.

    Your sweater is very lovely. I like the pattern and the colors.

    I pray that your husband will be able to heal his gall bladder naturally. It sounds like it has been a very painful ordeal.

    I look forward to reading your interview on Suzanne's blog.


  17. Karen,

    Thanks for sharing in such a story-like fashion the behind-the-scenes events of your beach trip. Your knitting is quite lovely; the analogy even lovelier -- God's truth revealed in the handwork of His daughters, sublime.

    Praise God for His protection of your family and that your husband is on the mend!

    Blessings in Him,


  18. As I read your account of family happenings, I was touched at how family pulls together through various things life has to throw at us. I was once again reminded of the blessing of family, both immediate and distant ;o)

    I almost feel as if that little sweater has a story to tell after all it has 'witnessed'. Oh if inanimate things could talk. I often think that when I gaze upon some of the ancient buildings and trees here in England.

    I am glad to hear that Dean is doing better and that your mum and dad's house was safe through the storm.

    That vase and little sweater of yours are both just so pretty!

    Blessings in Christ
    Shirley Ann

  19. I have been reading your books, and am thrilled to have found your blog. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom!

    I love the tapestry parable, and had to look it up, after hearing this subject taught in church this morning. I found this:

    Life Is But A Weaving
    by Corrie Ten Boom

    My life is but a weaving
    Between my God and me.
    I cannot choose the colors
    He weaveth steadily.
    Oft' times He weaveth sorrow;
    And I in foolish pride
    Forget He sees the upper
    And I the underside.
    Not 'til the loom is silent
    And the shuttles cease to fly
    Will God unroll the canvas
    And reveal the reason why.
    The dark threads are as needful
    In the weaver's skillful hand
    As the threads of gold and silver
    In the pattern He has planned
    He knows, He loves, He cares;
    Nothing this truth can dim.
    He gives the very best to those
    Who leave the choice to Him.

  20. Thank you, Hannah, for including the poem, "The Weaver" in with your comment. How interesting that Providence was the subject taught in your church recently.
    A friend e-mailed me with news that the U.S. Library of Congress claims the author of "The Weaver" to be Benjamin Malachi Franklin (1882-1965) contributed by his grandson. Perhaps it was so highly regarded by Miss Corrie and so often referred to by her that it came to be thought of as hers. I don't know. Nevertheless, I am happy you sent it. (Romans 8:28). It is a comfort.
    Karen A.

  21. I was told just this week that gall bladder attacks are worse than child birth. :-)

    A lovely vase to be sure. and the wild flowers are amazing. And what a blessing your parents home was secure. I'm sure it was a frightening time for them. I can see you two working on your knitting together. Your sweater turned out beautifully.


  22. This is a beautiful description of family love and care for each other.
    Laura of Harvest Lane Cottage