On the Road with Stoles

I am busy packing to go to the UCC General Synod in Long Beach, California.  For the first time, I will have a booth in the Exhibit area .. booth #461.


It’s a really interesting process to be part of an exhibit area in a big convention center.  I have learned about packing and shipping, arranging for electricity and signs for the booth,and getting a California tax number (yes, you will be paying sales tax in California).  [For those of you who don’t know, there is no sales tax on clothing in Minnesota, and clergy vestments are considered clothing.]

I met my goal of making 100 stoles for the booth.  Which means (for those who are interested), 66 yards of interfacing, nearly 2 km of beige thread (for most of the sewing), 50 yards of rayon fringe, 75 yards of beautiful fabric, and more hours than I am willing to confess!

See you in Long Beach — and tell your friends!

Footprints — No, Not That One

You may know that we have had unseasonably snowy weather this week in Minnesota.  “Unseasonable” is the polite way of saying 8″ of snow in our yard.  In May.

Today the inevitable thaw is well underway, and when I looked out the window of my sewing studio I noticed that the place where the letter carrier cuts across our lawn to our neighbor’s house is already down to the grass.  I wonder how often that happens — that the places where we leave our footprints are the first places for new life to show up?

I think of two churches — one where I was a member before I went to seminary, and one where I served my first call.  Neither of them entered into the Open & Affirming process while I was there, but both did so not long after.  I hope that my fading footprints may have contributed to their processes.  Or the friend who chose not to wear a wedding band because she remembered me saying that the correct number of rings in a marriage was always an even number; when her husband chose not to wear a ring, so did she.  Not sure how I feel about those footprints.

It’s probably good to remember that the footprint-first melting pattern is peculiar to spring snowfalls.  During the winter, the places where the snow is packed down (tire tracks as well as footprints) often take a long time to thaw.  Which is something to ponder another time.


I’m an E-Tailer!

I just officially opened my “shop” on Etsy.com — look for me as WomanoftheClothShop there.  WARNING:  Please notice the “shop” at the end of the title; there is another “womanofthecloth” on Etsy — and she is NOT a stolemaker!

I have listed 14 of my stoles in various colors and fabrics.  Take a look and let me know what you think!

On Keeping It in Perspective

On this day of manhunts in Boston, explosions in Texas, snowstorms in the Midwest, and  personal dilemmas among my friends, I have been thinking about “Keeping It in Perspective.”

My Facebook News Feed is full of people minimizing their own challenges and problems as being trivial in comparison with the big events of the past few days.  That sounds healthy, but I think it overlooks the genuine tension we all experience between the reality of our personal distress and the reality of the “big picture.”  Our problems may be small in comparison to world events, but they are real problems all the same, and they call upon our gifts, energies, and persistence.

Sure, some small local events seem to consume way more time and attention than they deserve; so do some large national/global events. Somehow we need to stay attentive and respectful of both our own situation and the world situation.  To love our neighbors and ourselves — not instead of ourselves.


Easter Finery

When I was a little girl I got more excited about my new Easter outfit than I did about Easter baskets or even Easter candy.  My family wasn’t religious, though they sent me to (Presbyterian) Sunday School.  But we did go to church on Easter, and I loved having new clothes for that day.  Back then — in the ’50’s — a new outfit included shoes, hat, and gloves.

The outfit I remember best was a purple and white gingham dress with a purple corduroy coat to match.  My mom made them both;  she probably didn’t finish the coat until Saturday night (there’s a trait I inherited!), but I loved the ensemble and couldn’t wait to put it on.

The truth is that I still like to have new clothes for Easter.  Putting on new clothes is a simple way to embody the restoration of life that we celebrate in the Resurrection.  In our Minnesota climate, Easter clothes are often the first light, bright garments we have worn for a long time.  Furthermore, the whole process of shopping for Easter clothing brings a sense of anticipation for the coming holiday.

And no (if you are thinking this), enjoying an Easter outfit does not trivialize the theological centrality of Easter to the Christian faith.  For me, at least, it is an earthy, incarnational way of bringing the great mystery of Easter into my life.  It would be a terrible loss if Easter was only about clothes (or bunnies or eggs or candy, for that matter); but it would also be a terrible loss if Easter was only about solemn Bible study.



Trust and Obey

I like old hymns — in the same way that I like the old Home-Ed pamphlets that reminded women to comb their hair and put on lipstick before their husbands got home.  They (the hymns — not the pamphlets!) remind me of another time and another way of expressing faith and piety.  Still, I was surprised today to find my mind going to one of those old hymns … “Trust and Obey.”  The words were written by Presbyterian minister John Sammis in 1887, and the story goes that they were inspired by a young man’s testimony following an Evangelical revival meeting.

To my ears, most of the text is quaint and old-fashioned, not really to my theological taste.  But the phrase “trust and obey” sounds as fresh and compelling to me now as it must have been to the Rev. Sammis all those years ago.

What I hear in these words is an invitation to be more attentive to that part of my intuition that isn’t really intuition at all (because it doesn’t originate in me), but inspiration. I am trying to trust those small divine nudges of mind and heart that are so easy to brush off, and instead to be obedient to them.  If I suddenly think of a friend I haven’t spoken to for a while, I am going to get in touch.  If a particular fabric draws my eye, I am going choose it for the next quilt or stole or banner.  If I am suddenly awakened to injustice, I am going to raise my voice.  If a moment of sadness comes over me, I am hoping for the wisdom and patience to sit with it rather than to hurry on to something less uncomfortable.

The challenge in this, of course, is in discerning which inner leanings are truly the whispers of the Holy Spirit, and which ones are just my own thoughts and musings.  I suppose I will get it wrong sometimes, but that’s not a reason not to try.   Since it is too late to take this on as a Lenten discipline, I guess it will be my Holy-Week-and-Easter discipline.



Smiling Faces

Another non-traditional stole — this one celebrating particular ministries:  children and youth on one side (those are the smiling faces) and welcome to GLBTQ folks on the other (rainbows).

This is one of the stoles I am taking to Berkeley for next week’s Earl Lectures.  If you are going to be there, stop and say hello.  If you have west coast clergy friends who might be attending, tell them to look for me!

Tulips in Church

The fabric in this stole doesn’t match any of the traditional colors of the church year.  But these bright tulips — with flecks of gold in them — certainly bring a message of joy and new life.  The stripes on the back might qualify as a purple stole, if you really needed to have one.

The congregation spends a good bit of the service watching the minister.  It is not frivolous to be intentional about what they will be looking at — hopefully something that deepens and enriches the experience of being in worship.

Lent is More than the Color Purple

Purple is the traditional color for the season of Lent, which begins this year on Ash Wednesday, February 13.  But a color alone does not really communicate the sense of the season — especially to newer and younger church members who don’t know the “secret color code” of the church year.

The purple and gray pattern in this fabric shows jagged movement that echos themes of Lent, and the touches of fuchsia and turquoise are harbingers of the Easter to come.  The reverse side is plain purple; even if you never wear the plain side, it will peek out occasionally.

The use of beautiful — and sometimes unconventional — fabrics in church is one way of inviting the “visual word” into our worship.