Gift of a lifetime

I dreamt I was an astronaut preparing to leave earth. Every moment seemed sweeter because I knew it might be my last seeing the ordinary times.

In a café, I saw someone heartbroken, finding comfort with a coffee and scribbling in a journal. I felt how much it means to love and feel disappointment.

In a restroom, I appreciated the friendly chatter between the women next to me as we washed our hands, talking about nothing important but with warmth and humor in the tone of their voices, amused by the details of life.

Under a bridge, I stood protected from the rain. I looked at the concrete underbelly construction with awe, impressed by the initiative and ability for humans to build great structures.

From a hilltop, I looked down over a lake where children swam. Their pale bodies looked like slim stars on a blue water sky. I heard their laughter echo up the hill. It was the happiness of summer and nature.

When I woke up, I thought, This is why we have mortality. All the ordinary holds sweetness because we will leave it.

I remember my dreams because of my brother. When I was a child, he told me about one of his dreams.

“How could you remember it?” I asked.

“You can remember your dreams if you want to. When you go to sleep tonight, tell yourself you will remember your dreams. And you will,” he said.

That night, I repeated in my thoughts that I would remember my dreams. I did. I have ever since, my whole life.

This month marks five years since my brother died of suicide.

Remembering my dreams is a gift he gave to me. God rest his soul.

Photo by  NASA
Photo by NASA

Fall blessings

Fall makes me appreciate warm soup, cozy sweaters and crisp leaves under my feet as I walk the dogs.

It’s my favorite!

Didn’t you suspect it already? As an introvert with an obsession for books, crochet, knitting and hot drinks, I’m clearly geared for cooler weather.

The season feels like a sigh of relaxation after all the heat and brightness of summer pulls away.

It’s contemplative. Time to look at the inside of my home and refeather the nest. What can I organize? What can I purge?

Hot chocolate never tastes so good as it does when I’m sitting outside, at home on the porch or at a Friday night football game. I can’t get enough salted caramel mochas!

I crave books to read while I bake goodies in the oven. Seasonal food for me is all comfort food, meant to put meat on my bones before the real cold weather strikes. Autumn means stews and roasted potatoes, apples by the dozen and sweet potatoes with extra butter.

Enjoy my photos from past fall seasons!


May you be warm when frost decorates cars
May your pantry be stocked from the fall harvest
May your home be ready for snow to arrive

Whether fall is your favorite too or
just a season to get through,
my fall blessings to you!

Tell me your thoughts!

What do you like about fall?

Four points of prayer shawls

If you enjoy the spiritual dimension of crafting, you might enjoy my book, Creative Women’s Devotional: 28 Reflections for Christian Knitters and Crocheters.

Gen in prayer shawl

Too often things made by hand, and especially women’s arts and crafts, are relegated to the trivial. Prayer shawls elevate something simple to a tangible gift of depth and meaning. After learning the four points of prayer shawls, you’ll understand the act and importance of making, giving and using prayer shawls.

Invitation to Art Show May 21

Come see for yourself! I invite you to see and touch my prayer shawls during the upcoming MU Staff Art Showcase May 21 from noon to 1 p.m. in Ellis Library, upstairs in room 201, University of Missouri campus. The art show runs from Tuesday, May 21 through Thursday, May 23 if you can’t make the opening. Parking for those off campus is available behind Memorial Union with metered spots (enter from University Avenue to go behind Memorial) or on the top level of Turner Avenue Garage.

When hard times threaten

Imagine you’re facing a hard time in your life.

You are looking at a difficult health situation like cancer or a tough change like a break-up or job loss. You’re not sure where the happy, healthy you is.

You might be feeling the pinch between the time you have to give and the time needed to meet all the requirements of your life. You feel the pressure to be a good parent, a patient caretaker or a reliable friend.

It might be that you wonder if you still matter. Maybe there are other more vibrant people around and you feel faded in comparison.

Comfort for hard times

What you need is an arm around your shoulder and a sense that you’re blessed in all your circumstances, good and bad, bright and dark. You need to know the loving hand of the holy holds you.

What can give you a feeling of protection and comfort? What is a tangible reminder of the spirit?

A prayer shawl made from love, yarn, time and prayers infuses the wearer with warmth in body and spirit.

Four point of prayer shawls

1. Prayer shawls heal the maker

Research shows that doing a repetitive and rhythmic action with your hands such as knitting and crochet has psychological benefits. You have less stress and experience a sense of calm while doing crafts. Combine this action with the contemplative practice of prayer and you have a powerful way to bring body, mind and spirit together.

As a maker, you focus on the moment. When you concentrate on the present, you open yourself to a fresh source of energy. Both prayer and craft combine to draw you out of your worries and into your deeper self.

2. Prayer shawls heal the receiver

As a receiver, you have a healing item to wrap around you. With a gentle weight and cozy curl around your shoulders, you can rest secure in the knowledge that someone took time to make a gift for you. All the prayers, thoughts and hopes that went into the stitches surround you. A prayer shawl around you allows you to feel safe and valued.

You can always have a hug from your friend even if she’s not there. You can put on the prayer shawl when you meditate, want to feel inspiration or need a reminder that you’re loved.

3. Prayer shawls connect the past to the present

We live in a time of rushing, selfishness and distraction. How often are you late for something? How often do you only give someone half of your attention—if even that much—because your mind is already gone to the next place you need to be? Or because you’re out of practice, you don’t pay attention to anything anymore? The act of stopping to sit and crochet while praying on each new loop brings us back to a time when the pace of life was humane. It does us good to slow down and think stitch by stitch, prayer by prayer. It builds our depth of concentration.

In moments of contemplation, we hear the song of the spirit and see ourselves as a small part in a greater whole. Someone made the yarn, someone transported the yarn, someone sold the yarn, someone made the prayers that made the shawl and someone accepted the gift of the shawl.

The texture of yarn sliding through our fingers as we loop it together reminds us that making something by hand is an ancient art, as old as humanity. We haven’t always lived in an industrial, technological age with machines embedded in our lives and devices stuck in our hands. It helps us to have the flexibility of fiber between our fingers, rather than only the flatness of screens and rectangles.

4. Prayer shawls embody the power of simplicity, prayer and caring

A shawl is a simple form of clothing. Women often used shawls so they could stay warm and nurse their babies easily. Many cultures use shawls as protection because they can be fashioned into different items as needed, as a cover from the sun during the day and then wrapped around the neck and shoulders at night. For thousands of years, shawls have protected and decorated us, from the ancient Israelites to modern-day women dressed for a summer wedding.

Prayer can also be simple. A call to the divine can be one word, said with intention.

Caring about someone else is a pure act. To want good things for another brings us out of our selfish concern and focuses our mind on community. Generosity helps everyone. Making an item and giving it away is a bigger stretch than any purchase.

Combine a simple piece of clothing with prayer and affection. Give it away. This is the prayer shawl.

Would you like more information on prayer shawls?

Shawl Ministry

Nancy Monson, Craft to Heal


I leave you with this blessing, knit in words, a prayer shawl made of letters for you.

May you feel the presence of God in
hands of the holy on your shoulders with
warmth and weight to feel steady.

In this moment, you can rest.
Your shoulders drop and you relax.

Let the arms of love wrap you
snug to know you’re valued.
You are loved.

May you be at peace in this moment,
the peace of kind hands and wise souls,
the peace of a quiet evening
next to the river where
spring peepers call and starlight gleams,
the peace of friendship offered and accepted.

Peace be with you.