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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Sewing (02/22/07)

TITLE: His Strength is Mine
By Donna Howard


679 words

He Gives Me Strength

It was May seventeenth, 1998. I stood beside my daughter as my husband snapped a picture of us in our beautiful Norwegian bunads. Tears of joy streamed down my cheeks and slid past the broad smile of triumph on my face. The bunad (Norwegian dress) was a result of the fulfillment of a Bible promise.

We lived in Stoughton, Wisconsin, a Norwegian settlement which holds a three-day celebration each year, called Syttende Mai, to commemorate the signing of Norway’s constitution, culminating in it’s independence from Denmark on the seventeenth of May 1814. Syttende Mai means “seventeen May.”

A part of the celebration includes the world-renowned Stoughton High School Norwegian Dancers. Our daughter’s oldest son, our oldest grandson, was one of those dancers. Dancer parents are required to wear Norwegian costumes whenever the dancers performed, so our daughter had ordered her dress from Norway.

Grandparents are not required to wear Norwegian costumes, and since they are very expensive, I had not even dreamed of having one myself. But my husband had other ideas, and for a very special reason. The summer before the picture was taken, I had been diagnosed with breast cancer. I went through surgery in August, and was scheduled to begin chemotherapy soon after my recovery.

As I mentioned, authentic Norwegian bunads are very expensive, but still my husband wanted me to have one. There was a seamstress in Stoughton who had designed a special "authentic" Stoughton Norwegian bunad, which she made available in kits, and they were much less expensive than the real thing. My husband insisted that I should have one, and kept urging me to go and have my measurements taken so she could make up a kit for me. I was puzzled about his insistence when I knew we really couldn’t afford one, and he didn’t share his thoughts with me then, but he felt that if I knew a dress was being made for me, it would give me another reason, besides my wonderful family, to fight the cancer. He was right, but as it turned out it did even more than that for me.

I hired our son-in-law’s sister, a full-time Registered Nurse and part-time seamstress, to make the dress for me. There was just one problem. Most Norwegian bunads, including the Stoughton bunad, have LOTS of embroidery on them, and Penny didn’t have time to make the dress and do the embroidery, too. I had done some embroidery when I was younger, but I hadn’t engaged in it for years. Still, something urged me to try. I brought the necessary pieces of the dress home, and very soon became fearful that I had make a terrible mistake. The chemo treatments left me with very little energy and I spent at least two days after each treatment sleeping in my lounge chair. Many tmes I picked up the embroidery work and then laid it aside again. I simply didn't have the energy to work on it. Yet, I very much wanted to do the work.

Finally I prayed “Lord, help me.” The Bible verse: Phillipians 4:13, came to my mind. “I can do everything through him, who gives me strength.“ Taking that verse to heart, I worked on the embroidery a little each day. As the pattern began to take shape, I became excited, wanting to see more. Then one day, I realized I wasn’t sleeping as much as I had been, and I suddenly knew why. The Lord was answering my prayer. Since I had very little strength of my own, he was giving me his. Also, I was no longer focusing on myself, but on my work. The embroidery had become therapy for me.

It took several months, but the dress was finished in time for Syttende Mai that next spring. Although I was still wearing a wig the day my husband snapped that picture, it is one of my favorite photos. It reminds me that when I don’t have the strength to take another step, or sew another stitch, the Lord will give me his.

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This article has been read 838 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Allison Egley 03/03/07
This was good. I would have rearranged the 1st paragraph a bit, and put the date later on. A date as the first sentence doesn't draw readers in as well as active sentences. Also, there were a few minor grammatical errors, but nothing that detracted from the piece as a whole. Great job. Keep up the good work.
Cheryl Johnson03/04/07
This was a lovely piece. Quite honestly, when I saw the topic for last week, I rolled my eyes. I have never been big on sewing. But you took a topic that held no interest for me and made something beautiful out of it. I enjoyed reading this and it was inspiring as well.
Jacquelyn Horne03/05/07
Heart rendering story. It must be true, if not, you certainly put me into the scene. Good job.
Crista Darr03/12/07
Hi Donna. I judged this topic and was touched by your story. It rated 21st overall on my tally. Great work!