Memories Are Made Of This


Most of my readers are aware of the huge downsizing I’ve had to go through this year. It wasn’t exactly my choice, though I’d been saying for years it had to happen.

If you recall last March I struggled with packing up our four-bedroom home and reducing my stuff to a two-bedroom apartment. Then I forced myself to part with more for a move to a one- bedroom apartment. My heart had to take a few more jolts to let go of my storage space conglomeration, and because I was moving again to smaller one-bedroom I had to eagle eye what I had left.

I think Marie Condo, the organizer guru,was on to something when she said, “Keep only things that speak to your heart.” The first move I found too many things that spoke to my heart such as my first doll, my first teddy bear, and mementoes from my children. With gritted teeth and help from a friend I let many of them go.

By the third move I was so tired I let things walk out the door with friends and strangers.

Yesterday I needed a large vase and tore through my cupboards looking for my favorite blue vase my husband and I received for a wedding present all those years ago. I realized it was one of the items that probably ended up in a thrift shop somewhere.

As much as I miss some of my “stuff” , and at times feel sad about it, I believe I feel freer now. I don’t spend my time rearranging or looking or taking care of endless objects that I thought meant a great deal to me. In reality they were just objects, some left from an era of family that had no meaning to me, but yet guilt wouldn’t let me part with them because they were family relics. Relics kept because they had meaning to past family members but escaped my adoration.

It’s exciting to fill my space with fun eclectic finds all new to me which speak to my heart as Marie Kondo advised. Yet, I find the few things I have kept from the past, whether I realized it or not, speak to my heart too.

From the pictures on my walls to the knickknacks gracing my tables when I see them they each have a memory of someone special in my life.

One memory may be strange but unique. The time of Lent and Easter is a reminder of not only the season for me, but of my mom. Every Easter season, on Palm Sunday we received palms. They were the tall, willowy ones. My mom would keep hers and braid it. She was very good at the art, and then she would put it n a vase where we could see it. I never asked why, or if I did, in my young age, I never paid attention to the answer. Doing my research I found the palms symbolize the warding off of evil and are supposed to be burned the following year on Ash Wednesday. The Palms having been blessed, should only be burned and buried, and it also is an old tradition to burn the blessed branches before natural disasters asking God to avert or lessen the coming disaster.

I found a braided palm when I packed up my mom’s house over twenty years ago. I remember the final years she lived in her home, it sitting in a vase in the window. I may not be Catholic anymore but the roots run deep,and I knew you didn’t throw the palm away. There was something about it that touched my heart knowing my mom’s love of her religion, and what the palm symbolized to her. I could see her braiding it with care. I kept it. It sat on my windowsill in a vase reminding me of her.

Fast forward to all of these moves. I took a little heat from people that I wouldn’t let go of that braided palm. They didn’t understand my stubbornness. I carefully packed it and unpacked it all three times. It’s brittleness making it a challenge to move so it didn’t disintegrate in the packing. Today it sits in another vase in my bedroom reminding me this Easter Season of the journey to the cross and also of the past, and the faith my mom had. And…of course her talent weaving and braiding those palms.

We pare down, let go of our past lives symbolized by the stuff we have saved, hoarded, hid only to bring out to see what was in the box and always feel guilty because our family chides us about all we keep. Yet, somewhere in the muddle of the junk and the regrets of keeping so much are the memories that are attached, because there are mementos which melt our hearts each time we look at them. They help us remember who we are, where we came from and what matters. Those are the items we need to keep to help us stay attached to our roots. The ones we have to ponder deeply, hold to our hearts and ask ourselves how deeply they speak to our heart and why.

Someday I will burn the braided palm. Or perhaps my family will in my last days. Maybe I’ll be surprised and it will be passed on down the family for as long as it will hold together to remind them of God’s love, His sacrifice of His son and the roots that are deep into our life called family.

Can’t We Have More Than One Church Family?

ground group growth hands

Photo by Pixabay on

If you have read my previous blogs you know my family is a mixture of religions. I have been a Catholic and turned Lutheran when I had my family. As I get older and ponder my religious upbringing the more I seem to question, not whether I believe in God, but why I need to attend one sole church.

The thought crossed my mind as I attended my Granddaughter’s confirmation. I knew why we had to belong to one church as my children grew up, so they could attend Sunday School, Bible School and learn more about God. That’s the way it is done. As I get older and have no children to raise I ponder why I can’t have many church families.

I loved the church service at the confirmation ceremony and the way my Granddaughter’s church, Cross of Peace Lutheran Church in Shakopee, MN, prepared their children for confirmation and made their day special. It made my day special too with the upbeat and contemporary service. You could feel the joy. I enjoyed the experience of worshipping in a congregation that was not my home church.

This week I decided to test my theory in my own home town. I decided to drop in and visit Open Doors United Methodist Church. It was my dad’s home church. I felt welcome the minute I walked in the door. The chatter and feeling of warmth immediately drew me in. As I experienced the services, different from my home congregation, I was moved. Looking at the bulletin I was drawn into wanting to attend some of their activities. It was Mother’s Day so the kids handed out homemade bookmarks to mothers. A woman I met briefly a few weeks earlier, invited me to dinner with her family. I already had plans but I appreciated the invitation. Another person invited me to a Bible Study.

After leaving I pondered visiting two different churches so close together, both different, but both feeding my heart and teaching me about the Lord and the gospel and church family. Each church, my own included, has an energy all their own.

I love the people in the church where I belong. My point is not unhappiness with my own home congregation, Good Shepherd Lutheran, it is something inside of me that wonders why we can’t have more than one church family in 2019. I know the doctrine of each church differs, but I also know very few people who 100 % follow the doctrine of their church. I am a mixed breed of religions and perhaps that is what is fueling my questions.

In my cozy mystery series books, the Fuchsia, MN Series, I think I addressed what I was feeling without knowing it. In Fuchsia, we have the We Save You Christian Church. Everyone in Fuchsia goes to the church. The denominations are not the same. The building is shared by all religions with the Priests and Ministers presiding over each denominations services but sharing the building. Residents can attend the service of their choice but many times they attend a service of another denomination because they want to change it up. Because they are all under the umbrella of one building, they are all one church family holding some events together. Maybe I pulled that out of some deep down feelings I have been hiding.

What would happen if we attended different churches on Sunday, expanding the church families that we have?  What if we weren’t so territorial about our people, but encouraged them to not only worship and take part in our church activities but of other churches too, and we welcomed others to join our activities without expectations. What if we welcomed and encouraged expanding church families and encouraged them to give their money wherever they worshipped for the Sunday? It would come back to us when others worshipped at our church.

I found events enticing me to attend in both churches where I worshipped in the last two weeks. At Cross of Peace Lutheran, I would love to participate in their Women, Wine and Woods event. At Open Doors I would love to participate in their Bible Study. There are things in my church too to attend. And there are events I wouldn’t mind helping with at each church such as a library and children’s book Sunday.

Am I advocating a pick and choose religion? Not really. I am advocating expanding and becoming part of a larger nurturing family of believers, rather than limiting ourselves to one inclusive congregation where attending another church or religion in your community might be viewed as a betrayal. I view it as enriching our lives with a bigger family brought together to learn about God.

I find I expand my world by seeing things through others eyes and the same can be said by learning about how others worship and what they do to feed their flock.

We have a fear in our congregations, I think it is underlying and not said, but in smaller communities perhaps, fostered silently, and that is that we are in competition with others churches and religions, and we need to keep people within our walls.

I love Billy Graham’s quote: Christianity means a lot more than church membership. And we’ve all heard the quote by Billy Sunday: Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile. I agree with both. But having a church family that has your back can change your life.

Spending time with others with like interests in various activities feeds us to come together in prayer and outreach, bringing with it laughter, and comfort and a deeper understanding of the word.

These thoughts are just those of a rebel old person. Whose hallowed halls will I still be welcome in?

Are The Ten Commandments Old Hat?

I grew up in the Catholic Church. Although I am no longer Catholic I believe many of the things I was taught. As I read the news this morning the Ten Commandments came to mind. They were rules to live by in earlier days. Most Christian churches believed in the Ten Commandments. I knew right from wrong because of my upbringing in the church and those Ten Commandments. They were drilled in to me and I still use them to guide me today.

But those teachings seem to be muddied these days. Knowing right from wrong today is confusing. We fudge on those moral teachings because they are not as clear cut. Somewhere along the line we don’t hear too much about those important words. I’m not sure our young people today would be able to recite the Ten Commandments. Are they as important to Christians today as the Pledge of Allegiance we are fighting about in the news?

The Ten Commandments from the Christian Churches are pretty clear cut. In case you have never heard of the Ten Commandments here are a few that to me seem easy across any language and religion.

Thou Shalt Not Steal.

Thou Shalt Not Take the Name of the Lord Thy God in Vain

Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness Against They Neighbor

Thou Shalt Not Kill

It was clear when I was a kid if you stole something and your parents found out about it, they would march you back to the store to make amends. There were were consequences back home and then there was the guilt. A little healthy guilt isn’t all bad. It might keep you from making the mistake again. We knew what stealing was and that it was wrong.

Today the lines of that commandment seems blurred even in my mind. Is it wrong to take something from our place of employment? Maybe we pick up a few pieces of paper, or pens, or office supplies? Don’t we work hard and deserve the little perk? What about purposely entering the wrong information when we apply for a job? A clerk doesn’t charge us enough for an item—do we point out the mistake or tell ourselves the mistake was theirs so it lets us off the hook? That’s a perk right, and not stealing? What little or big ways do we steal and chalk it up to being accepted? But do we feel the same way if we are the ones on the losing end of a transaction?

What about taking the Lord’s name in vain? Everyone does it these days. It seems to be accepted in mainstream USA. It wasn’t accepted in my parents home or the school I attended. It used to bother me when someone used God’s name in vain in front of me, but I am so used to it now that it becomes a blurb in the conversation and on television.

Recently at a local drinking and eating establishment a group of young men were using God’s name loudly and repeatedly, along with other language. A couple sitting at a table near them decided to move and leave because of it. They were offended. We took their table and during our meal listened to the loud, crude language. What had happened to me that I blew it off? What happened that it no longer offended me so that I wanted to say something?

I know a few people who use the Lord’s name and profanity profusely in their life outside of the church, but when they enter that church their entire demeanor changes and the language is pure as the driven snow. Here is what I want to say to them, “Come to church, be yourself. Decide which of those people is you and be who you are all the time.” Why do others feel they have to change when entering a church. If you are not ashamed of the language you use in public, then use it in church too. After all, we know the chameleon you are and accept it outside of the church walls. God does too. Don’t confuse the kids who know you in both worlds.

Let’s get on to the Do Not Bear False Witness. Your neighbor these days is everyone you come in contact with. Read the Social Media and people are bashing and bullying their neighbor on post after post after post. And we join in.

We all break rules. We all break the Ten Commandments if we believe in them. For many of us we know we want to do better. We know we are not living the lives we want to model for others. We make mistakes but we try and rectify them and go forward.

What’s the point of this long diatribe? Not to make me any better than you. But the thought crossed my mind today as we listen to the left and right, and the interpretations of morals from sides using the Bible, perhaps all we need to do is to follow the Ten Commandments. We could adopt a generic Ten Commandments for those that are going to argue the Ten Commandments are for Christians only.

Generic Rules To Live By

I will not put money and power before people and compassion.

I will not make my house, my cars, my wealth or my electronics more important than living a life of integrity.

I shall watch my language so as to not degenerate or offend another person.

I will take time to rest away from the noise of the world and the media so I can hear my own voice in the clutter of others opinions.

I will treat my elders with respect. I will see that they live their lives to the end with dignity.

I will not hurt another human being physically or with words.

I shall be a loyal mate and friend.

I will not steal.

I will not talk about my neighbor unkindly or bully another person because of our differences of opinion, race or religion.

I will not be jealous of my neighbor’s good fortune.

Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we tried at least one of them?