When I signed on to make string balls for Vacation Bible School (VBS), it didn’t seem like a big deal. Pepper and Ginger could help, I reasoned. It would be a fun learning experience for all of us. It would qualify as a homeschool art class.
And so, when the VBS director suggested I make 6 large balls and 12 small balls, I thought that sounded fine. I even thought that sounded a little unambitious. 18 string balls was a good starting point, but I would probably exceed that. In my mind’s eye, I saw myself dazzling the Director with string balls. I would shine as a string ball maker. My abilities would open all sorts of doors for future crafting ministry. I would become part of the team that decorates the platform each Sunday. No, I would head that team with my cutting-edge craft skills. This is the path my mind traveled.
And then I began to make the string balls.
It took nearly an hour to get everything ready the first night – the shower curtain rods had to be balanced between the dining room chair and a plastic tablecloth spread beneath to protect the floor. The balloons had to be blown up (CPT America helped with this) and then tied to the shower curtain rods. I hung up as many balloons as would fit – ten total – confident that once I got started, I’d burn through the project. I mixed the glue – a solution of cornstarch, Elmer’s, and warm water. And then I was ready to start.
I used directions I found on-line. They were very easy to find. String balls are everywhere. They have become very chic. No longer the province of summer camps and children’s art programs, string balls are popping up at wedding receptions. They’re dangling over elegant tables in garden settings. They’re being wired for use as chandeliers. If you currently have a decorating problem, I am confident the artful placement of a string ball will solve it.
But back to my project. I took my lasagna pan of little-bit-thicker-than-cream glue solution to the back room and knelt down in front of the balloons. Pepper was with me. She was going to help. She disappeared when she saw how messy the project was going to be. She is very smart, that Pepper.
I should have left too, but instead I soldiered on, using up all the glue in my pan on the first string ball. I didn’t know enough then to wring the glue solution out of the yarn as I wrapped. I made another pan and managed three more string balls. And that was all I could do. My feet had fallen asleep from my kneeling on them. My shoulders were cramped. My hands and legs were covered with glue solution that had now dried and looked like peeling skin.
“This is a very messy project!” The website I had consulted cheerfully warned. But the writer implied that it was messy in a good way. The accompanying photos showed a soon-to-be-married couple working together on the string balls they planned to use for their wedding reception. They were smiling and laughing as they worked. They were only faintly covered in glue, and their expressions said, “So fun! So worth it!”
So untrue. I cleaned myself up and went to bed.
The next day I popped the balloons and detached the four string balls I had made. The first one – the one I had baptized in an entire pan of glue – looked like it would withstand a nuclear blast. The other three were deceptively lovely – charming and simple and unpretentious in their starched stringy-ness. I showed a picture of them to the VBS director.
“Those are beautiful!” She said. “You’re doing a wonderful job! They weren’t too hard, were they?”
I thought about the hour I’d spent peeling glue off my arms and legs the night before, the time spent washing it out of my bangs. I thought about the shower curtain rods and dining room chairs still cluttering the back room of my house and the six balloons still hanging there, waiting to be wrapped. That was only the first wave. There would be at least eight more to do after that – six of them larger than the ones I had already made.
“Nah,” I shrugged. “They weren’t too bad. Just a little messy.”
And then I thought about the young couple I’d seen the night before – the one crafting string balls for their upcoming wedding. I wonder if they ever got married or if the string balls did them in.
I thought of my “ministry” too. The one where I was going to win souls with string balls. The one where I was going to lead a talented team of crafters on to bigger and better do-it-yourself craft projects for the church sanctuary.
I was wrong. That wasn’t the voice of the Lord. That was the String Balls talking.
Get Thee Behind Me String Balls.