Monthly Archives: April 2015

Touched

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From their hands to mine…

Once upon a time, long, long ago, ladies wore gloves and carried handkerchiefs as part of their apparel for activities like church, shopping or lunch with other ladies.  It was a more genteel era, an age of structured dresses, pillbox hats and cultured civility.  I often wonder if I wasn’t born in the wrong time because I sometimes yearn for the days of gloves, hats and hankies.

As a lifelong collector with a large extended family, I have inherited some of my Granny’s, Mama’s and aunts’ gloves and hankies.  The detail and craftsmanship put into these tiny items is impressive.  Many of the gloves have decorative stitching or embroidery, and little bitty pearl buttons sewn onto the cuffs.  Most of the handkerchiefs boast intricate stitching and lace as well.

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From the research I’ve done and the variety of items I’ve inherited, there seem to have been specific occasions when a particular length of glove might have been worn, or when a certain hankie might have been carried.  Some of Granny’s handkerchiefs are decorated with motifs for Christmas, weddings or Valentine’s Day, while the gloves range from just-wrist-length to halfway up my arm.  Generally, the longer the glove, the dressier the occasion.  There used to be strict etiquette guidlines for such matters and those rules can still be found in old books and online.  It’s fun to look back at how fashion and manners used to be.

There are also treasure troves of items like these in antique shops, flea markets and on the Internet.  Vintage textiles fascinate me, and the gloves and handkerchiefs in particular, items that began as strictly utilitarian objects, started being decorated and embellished.  They became both useful AND beautiful, petite pieces of art, suitable for framing, shadow boxes and any other display method one can imagine.  I can only begin to imagine the stories behind these tiny treasures.

I guess that’s why the gloves and hankies from my family mean so much to me.  The stories that come with them are part of my heritage.  There were the gloves that I wore with my wedding gown that belonged to Mama, and to Granny before her.  Even though Granny had been gone for 13 years by the time my wedding day came, wearing her gloves made me feel like part of her was with me somehow.  Granny also kept her diamond wedding set tied into the corner of a little hankie when she wasn’t wearing them (which was most of the time because they were fancy and she didn’t want to lose them).  I wish I knew which hankie she used for that.  Before Jeff and I were married, his Aunt Ann made me a beautiful lace-decorated basket and pillow, and wiith it she gave me a handkerchief that had belonged to her mother, Jeff’s grandmother.  What a sweet and meaningful welcome into the family.  I carried it on our wedding day.

I can imagine the church revivals, weddings and funerals where those gloves were worn…the tears of grief and joy wiped from the cheeks of loved ones with those soft squares of embroidered linen and lace.  Ages later, I look at these mementoes and I feel the women of my family in the things that they once Touched.

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The Mouths Of Babes

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A heart-melting moment…

I serve as a cantor for a Lutheran congregation filled with some of the sweetest people I have ever met.    Church was where I first learned that I loved to sing, and where my musical abilities were first discovered and nurtured.  In every church I’ve ever attended, no matter what the differences in theology or worship have been, there have been two common elements among them all: the inclusion of music and the children’s sermon.

Kids are so unpredictable!  Some days they gather around the pastor quietly and attentively.  Some days they are rambunctious little urchins!  Our pastors always handle the children’s behavior with good humor and a smile.

One thing you can count on with little children is that they are honest (sometimes to their parents’ chagrin!).  They will say exactly what they’re thinking, simply and without guile.  It might not always be what we want to hear, like when a little child asks why that lady has a mustache, or how come some people have stinky feet or loudly points out, “That man just pooted!”.

Sometimes, though, a kid will warm your heart with a sincere, sweet compilment.  I experienced such a moment this past Sunday.  I was getting into my car to leave church after the second service when a very cute little girl and her very cute grandmother waved and called out to get my attention.  I stopped and opened my car door to talk to them, and Grandma said, “We tried to find you in the choir room but you’d already come out to the parking lot, and my granddaughter wanted to tell you something.”

This sweet little girl could not have been more than 6 years old.  With her dark hair, she reminded me a lot of myself at that age, smiling up at me with her little baby-teeth smile.  I said hello and how glad I was to meet her, and she said, “I just want to say I think you’re a beautiful sing-ger!”

Singing last summer at Carnegie Hall was cool…but not as special as this moment with this little girl.  I thanked her, reached out to take her hand and asked her name, and she told me her name is Bella.  “Your parents gave you a wonderful name, because Bella means beautiful, and you sure are!”  I also noticed her pink cowboy boots and told her how much I liked them.  Grandma went on to say that Bella sometimes gets to visit at our church but lives in another area of town.  I thanked them both and we chatted a little more before parting ways.

In my rush to get home, it would have been easy to miss Bella and Grandma trying to flag me down in the parking lot.  What a blessing I would have missed!  Jesus took time to touch and bless little children.  He takes the time to listen when I need to talk to Him.  In His eyes, maybe we are all children.

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Dogwood Legends

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A tree, a flower and a symbol…

My dogwood tree is starting to bud.  Tiny but recognizable cross-shaped blossoms are emerging from its scraggly, thin branches.  On this Good Friday, I can’t help but think about the symbolism of the dogwood tree and the speculations of how it came to appear the way it does today.

I grew up hearing various legends and poems about how the dogwood was thought to be the kind of tree from which Jesus’s cross was made.  I am not a historian, botanist or scientist, so I have no concrete basis to assert whether or not these legends are true.  But when I look at the humble dogwood, I can see distinct symbols.

The dogwood’s most distinctive feature is its cross-shaped bloom which emerges every spring.  In the center of each blossom is a round green cluster thought to represent the crown of thorns placed on Christ’s head.  The edge of each of the four petals, or bracts, has what looks like a small tear or rip, and that rip symbolizes the tearing of Jesus’s flesh by the nails in His hands and feet and the spear in His side.  This rip is usually tinged with a reddish-brown edge, symbolic of His shed blood.  White dogwoods signify the purity of Jesus and His perfect atonement on the cross, while the pink dogwood is thought to blush in shame at being the tree used to build the cross.  The leaves of the dogwood turn a mottled red in the fall, again symbolizing the blood of Christ.

According to legend, the dogwood once grew tall, strong and sturdy, which is why it was chosen to be the tree from which the cross would be constructed.  After the crucifixion, the dogwood’s shame was such that it never again grew in a way that would allow it to be used for such a horrible purpose. Instead it grows into the smallish, gnarled tree we see today.

I marvel at the humble dogwood and its many reminders of the sacrifice Christ made on the cross, for me, for all.  Skeptics can say that all the symbols depicted are mere coincidence, and I suppose that is possible.  All I know is that, for me, the dogwood serves as a poignant reminder Christ’s life and death.  He paid a debt He did not owe, because I owed a debt I could not pay.

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