A Staff or a Needle

When it was time for me to leave home to attend Toronto Teachers College, I wanted new clothes. After all, I was on my way to the big city! I presented my request to my mother and she told me to go to the closet and bring back the green garbage bag. The ‘bag’ meant lots of old clothes, someone else’s cast offs. My heart sank. No way would I continue to wear charity garments, not after many years of hand-me-downs.

I dragged the bag to the bedroom and Mom began to pull out each item, one by one. I inwardly groaned. Ugly, tired rags. My visible displeasure in no way stopped her in her mission. She held up a very large, faded wool coat, “I’ll bet this was a really good coat in its day.” It may have been, but it sure isn’t good now!

Mom laid the coat on the bed, unbuttoned the opening and spread it all out, inside facing up. She lifted the worn lining and hiding underneath lay beautiful pink-grey wool, looking just like new. What is her point?

“If you take these panels apart, and lay your pattern on like this, I’m sure you could make yourself a beautiful suit.” I was quite annoyed by now, for I knew our sewing machine was long gone, sold to help pay the bills when Mom became the family breadwinner in our home.

“And how can I sew a heavy wool suit without a sewing machine?” I dared ask.

Quietly, yet firmly, she replied, “With a needle and thread.”

I had no idea how to proceed with just a needle and thread, a seemingly insurmountable task. I had no other options for my wardrobe so I began. I was thankful that the coat’s large size made cutting the fabric simpler. Hesitating at first, and then with growing excitement, I created a fully lined and interfaced suit. To my surprise, the hand-made garment became my favourite to wear for the entire year.

When reluctant Moses questioned God about his inability to lead the children of Israel out of their slavery in Egypt, God asked, “What is in your hand?” Moses experienced a dramatic illustration of God’s power when he gave God his staff … from staff to snake and back to staff again.

Many times as a leader I’m tempted to compare myself to others. When I have it all together like Mary, then I’ll take on this task. When I can write like Jerry, I’ll send off my article for publishing.

What incredible blessings I miss when I assume God is limited by my inabilities.

I can almost hear my mother’s voice saying, “It’s not what you have, but what you do with what you have that matters.” So I’m picking up my needle and proving once again that, with God’s help, what I already have may very well be enough for today’s need.



  1. Diana Armstrong on August 25, 2018 at 3:45 pm

    Hi Ruth. This really spoke to me today. Been feeling very inadequate at having neighbors I my home. Feel I need ew furniture. Need to upgrade everything. This just says it’s not what you have. Thank you for your inspiring words. I needed this.
    Diana ❤️

    • WordsToInspire on August 25, 2018 at 4:12 pm

      Hi Diana,
      Thank you for letting me know. Timely words for me too as we’ve moved into an older home that needs so much still to be done. Oh how we need each other.
      Blessings and love, R

  2. Heidi McLaughlin on August 27, 2018 at 6:26 pm

    What great words of encouragement and inspiration. You’re so right, I also compare myself to people who are so seamlessly talented and life goes so much easier for them. But I know there is so much fulfillment when we do what God calls us to do, uniquely for you and me. Thank you for the beautiful way you described this today. What a reminder and blessing.

    • WordsToInspire on August 27, 2018 at 6:48 pm

      Dear Heidi, Isn’t it wonderful to know that we are not alone in our thoughts about our abilities? It’s common to all of us. You’ve encouraged me by responding. Blessings & love

    • Shirley Rowan on February 15, 2020 at 9:41 pm

      Dear Ruth , this story always encourages and inspires me. We so often have so much more than we realize . When we slow down and take time to listen God can gently speak into our need . He often speaks in a way we’d never think of . Bless you my friend .

      • Ruth Coghill on February 15, 2020 at 10:22 pm

        Dear Shirley,
        It’s so good to know that you are encouraged by this blog. God indeed surprises us in many ways, often so far beyond what we could have imagined.
        Blessing to you too-

  3. Pat Klein on May 13, 2021 at 3:31 pm

    Ruth, You may have written this quite a while ago – but it has richly blessed me today. May I pass on important lessons & values to our daughters & grand-daughters (& even our one grandson!) before my time on earth is done. “Freely we have received, freely give.” Love you my friend, though our paths seldom cross these days

    • Ruth Coghill on May 14, 2021 at 1:26 am

      Hi dear Pat,
      How wonderful to hear from you. I often think of our powerful prayer times and great ministry together. I would be so honoured for you to pass on this blog to your family. Truly our mothers gave us so much and we have the privilege of passing on such wisdom. Anything I publish is available for whomever it might inspire. Many blessings and love to you…now you have blessed me!

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