When You’re Feeling Trapped by the Patterns

The drive from Irving to Waco gave us plenty of time to talk. We talk in circles, usually, starting at one point and ending far  from where we began.

She and I are both firstborns and our conversation about life had me commenting that the only models for firstborns are adults. We take our cues from them. Our parents, grandparents… they are the ones who imprint our lives. They are our patterns.

whole square


I like patterns. Shapes, numbers, word art, quilt blocks and puzzle pieces. I like the bold statements and clean lines of a fat number printed on tile or wood or just about anything. I’m drawn to the order, eager to restore order to what has fallen in disarray.

Elective classes is what excited me about Junior High. From somewhere in the middle of grade school, I knew I wanted to take typing and Home Economics. I wanted to peck out words faster than anyone not forgetting accuracy. And I wanted to learn to sew.

Typing proved easier. My fingers took to the keys of the electric typewriter in our 7th grade classroom. With paper clipped to a holder, I typed as fast as I read the words with few errors. When it came to sewing, correcting  mistakes was more tedious.

When I had Home Ec in high school, the project was more advanced than the apron we made in Jr. High and one that we could work on at home. Mama’s sewing machine and skills were helpful in making my brown pantsuit (the 70’s).

As an adult, I took a quilting class with a friend. We both loved the art of quilting and enjoyed our classes. Quilting was even more exact than sewing clothes. Some designs had points and while our instructor showed us all the tricks, mine were hit and miss as to their pointedness. I folded and ironed and pinned in the right spots but, not every point was exact.

Heather Jonathan matching

When our babies came along, my sewing interest was renewed. I was never seamstress level. I just sewed. Well enough for my daughter to wear her pretty frocks and to make a couple of matching outfits for our toddler and pre-schooler. But I would never call myself a seamstress. I’d see the work of seamstresses and mine wasn’t it.

The same when I drew or painted…I needed a pattern. The designs weren’t in my head or the few times they were I couldn’t reproduce what my minds eye saw.

I can’t sing on key without music. I can’t draw a cow without looking at a photo of one. I need a pattern to follow.

But then the real problem emerged: I wanted what I did to be exactly like the pattern. Oh, a little difference was okay. I wasn’t an artist after all. But it needed to be enough for people to notice how alike the model it was.

That, my friends, is stifling.

As a Christian, following is good. Following the ways Jesus calls us is always for our best. But he wants us to enjoy freedom within his community. Freedom to use the gifts he’s given us. Freedom to explore our talents.

When I only allow myself to duplicate another work, I’m measuring myself against them. The comparison voice, the loud one that is a liar, that voice shouts out how far off the mark I am. How limited my talents are and that I’m not a seamstress, artist, writer, musician, good parent, spouse, friend.

The comparisons are there for everything. I don’t read enough books, or the right books. I don’t drink enough water or exercise enough. I don’t read my bible as much as she does nor do I know all those verses. What is that voice inside you shouting?

How can I be so….not enough?

 I’m slowly trying to work my way to finding my way. I’m not throwing away the patterns. Not the pattern of Jesus.

I’m trying to explore the patterns grace. The ragged, unpredictable, outside the lines grace. Grace given to myself is the pattern I want to use.

How about you? Will you give yourself some grace today?


  1. Annie said:

    I love this analogy so much. I know at work, abstract expressionism makes people so uncomfortable. But, the artist still followed basic rules of color and composition – they just stretched those rules out to the edges. I guess that’s a lot like life, right? We follow the rules and want them to FIT, but they so rarely do.

    October 5, 2016
    • Debby Hudson said:

      I wasn’t even thinking about this with painting, Annie. That should have been the most obvious but I’ve sewn longer than I’ve painted. Patterns are the same but different – just like life 😉

      October 5, 2016

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