MRM museum gives a taste of New Mexican history

One of the things my husband and I like to do when we visit Taos, N.M. is go to the Millicent Rogers Museum, which is filled with Southwestern artistry, including one of my personal favorite types of art work – religious icons.

The museum also features Navajo and Hispanic weavings; Apache basketry; pottery that dates from prehistoric times to the present; a large collection of pottery by Mary Martinez, a famous potter from San Ildefonso Pueblo; a collection of New Mexican traditional dress; jewelry,; Plains beadwork;  and, the Hispanic Santos (what I have previously referred to as icons) from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Here are some pictures:

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Just from the sampling of photographs here, I hope you can see that the Millicent Rogers Museum can give you some insight into New Mexican history, if that interests you. If you are in the area, I would highly suggest visiting the museum.

Crocheter Salutes America

Last weekend, our family went to a birthday celebration for the United States Marine Corps in Pueblo. This celebration, which was put on by the USMC Recruiting Office, took place at the American Legion Hall. I was surprised and delighted to find that a crocheter had used her talents to honor America by stitching together this flag.

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A crocheted flag donated to the American Legion Post in Pueblo.   Crocheter unknown. Photo: Mike Steeves

The flag was encased in a nice glass-covered frame and there is a little plaque that says who it was made by. Unfortunately, I did not write down her name but you can see that she does very nice work.

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Photo: Mike Steeves

What do you think?



The Season of Busy is Back. What to do?

Well, it’s that time of year again. The holidays are here. It’s what I call The Busy Season.

My first Christmas. I was obviously not stressed out. I am not sure about my parents, however.
My first Christmas. I was obviously not stressed out. I am not sure about my parents, however.

At our house, late fall means basketball, plays and a multitude of activities related to things in which the family is involved. This time of year also means baking, extra cleaning, Thanksgiving, and all that entails, and then Christmas and all that entails. The thought of all of this makes me long for the quiet, boring days of January.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the holidays, but flopping around like a marionette that is controlled by a mad puppeteer is not what I envision for a time of such significance.

Somebody stop the madness.

The other day I went into Walmart and everything was Christmas. There was even a little Santa Claus in the foyer holding a sign that told me how many shopping days I have left until Christmas. This caused me to have some strong feelings; in fact, I wanted to kick Santa, but I restrained myself. I just told him to “shut up” as I walked by. To make matters worse, I went to the candy aisle in search of candy corn for Thanksgiving (and for a little snacking, I’ll admit) and it’s gone! Gone, I tell you! All of the candy is now Christmas candy. This store went straight from Halloween to Christmas! The only evidence of Thanksgiving (yes, remember the holiday in the middle?) are the turkeys and cranberries on sale in the food section.

For years now, I have loudly complained about this to my family and, judging from some things I see on social media and in the news, others are angry too.

Angry? Yes. ‘Anger’ is a good word to describe my feelings because the stores are not trying to spread holiday spirit. All they want is my money. They also want it earlier and earlier each year. Last year, stores were actually opening on the day before Thanksgiving for Black Friday. Many of them stayed open on Thanksgiving as well. This year, is already spamming us with ‘pre-Black Friday’ sales opportunities.

Obviously, they will not stop the madness.

There are glimmers of hope. I read in The New York Times that some stores are refusing to open on Thanksgiving. Some stores are even refusing to get into the Black Friday hype. That makes me happy even though we are still surrounded by rampant consumerism this time of year.

Somehow, the madness must stop. It will not stop with them so it has to stop with me. But how?

This problem has plagued me for years, yet I have not made changes until recently. I would like to share those with you, but here are the conclusions at which I had to arrive before I could make the changes.

  • I had to examine my priorities. What are my priorities this season? It all goes back to the reason we are celebrating. My family celebrates Thanksgiving so that we can thank God for what he provides. We celebrate Christmas because Jesus was born to make us children of God. Why are you celebrating the holidays? What are your priorities?
  • Once my priorities are set, my activity should fall under those priorities.  This is where change begins. What activities out of the multitude that are available are truly essential?

For me – and I suspect that this is true for most people – Thanksgiving is not really the problem. It’s Christmas, or more correctly, the commercialized mess that Christmas has become.  How can my celebration really mean something when I tired and cranky from all of the running around?  Here are some things that my family and I have come up with over the years:

  • Avoid activities that cause stress.  For me, this means that I stay home on Black Friday; I don’t attend most parties and I forget about Christmas cards. Instead, we try to keep things as normal as possible so that essential activities aren’t as stressful.
  • Pick a devotional or read through Advent liturgy during the six weeks the church celebrates. This will help you keep your priorities in order and bring peace and joy to your heart.
  • Limit holiday baking and gift giving. Seriously. With all of the calories that baking yields, stick with your immediate family’s favorites and maybe try one new thing. You will be grateful come January. And gift-giving? Wow. This is an enjoyable activity, but many people are still paying off credit card debt from last year. We’ve asked ourselves how much we really need and what is our motivation behind giving?  That has pared down a lot of unnecessary gifts that just get tossed aside anyway.
  • Don’t make everything. This is weird for a crafter to say, but unless you have successfully followed a strategic plan for making gifts for everyone this Christmas, don’t start now. It’s tempting to try, believe me (after all there are more than 40 days left, of course I can make 10 sweaters!).  Going on a marathon crafting binge, however, is bound to make anyone cranky. Plus, it takes the joy out of doing something you love.
  • Be prayerful. If stressful activity were not enough, relational stress is at an all time high during the holidays as family members gather together. Many of these family members to not spend time with each other during the year because they do not like each other, but at the holidays feel like they must be together out of obligation to parents or to their idea of what family means. If this applies to you, be prayerful ahead of time. Try to make peace as you are able. Take a walk if you have to.

These are just suggestions based on how my family celebrates. Do you have any ideas for your family? What do you do to make the holidays more pleasant and less stressful? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Changing the World

One of the things that I enjoy doing with my youngest son Stephen, is listening to modern Christian music. On Saturday we were listening the the Newsboys album

The Ascension - Stations of the Cross at San Luis, Colorado.
The Ascension – Stations of the Cross at San Luis, Colorado.

“Restart”. The first song confirmed some ideas that I have been tossing around mentally for some time:

That’s How You Change the World

All my life I had big dreams
To do big things and make a change
And all the while, I just passed by
The simple needs right here next to me

The Christian church encourages service to others. Many times, however, the idea of service gets misconstrued to mean that anything effective will be “out there” for all the world to see. I remember as a young person  thinking that the singers and bands of the concerts I attended were the ones who were really making a difference for Christ. They were the ones who started ministries; they were the ones who were employed by Christian nonprofits to speak about their causes; they wrote books; authors wrote about them in Christian magazines.

All of this was good. There were a couple of articles about Christian singers that I remember helping me in my journey; the music I listened to and concerts I attended really helped me as well and helped shape some of my world view. Unfortunately, for some reason, all of the excitement generated by those artists left me thinking subconsciously that I had nothing to contribute to the cause of Christ unless I was famous or extremely popular. As a young person, that was a bummer for me. Popularity was elusive; I was shy and awkward. As an adult, I have learned that popularity is not always desirable. Sometimes, in order to have favor with people, you actually have to give up pieces of your soul and that is not for me.

In the world, popularity equals success. Unpopular television shows do not continue. Movies that do not make huge amounts of money are not award winners. People who do not have glowing personalities do not gain followings, even though those personalities may be as shallow and superficial as a politician’s promises.

No where was this attitude of popularity equaling success more prominent than in the ministry. When I was a pastor’s wife, I struggled mightily in this area because it seemed like our churches, especially the first one, shrunk under our ministry. Pastors who have shrinking churches often do not get larger churches (and thus larger paychecks and other perks) when they move on. They also do not get the respect that pastors of larger churches get. Granted, pastors of large churches are talented people, but in the kingdom of God aren’t we all gifted in some way?

In reality, the majority of people do not have the talents that draw huge followings of people to them. Most of us have quiet talents and gifts that we share with our small circles of friends and associates. And, it is through the efforts of the quiet people that the Newsboys claim that the world is changed. I like these lyrics because they describe me and so many people that I know:

All my life I had big dreams
To do big things and make a change
And all the while, I just passed by
The simple needs right here next to me

It’s the prayer in an empty room
Little things we do when nobody’s around
A hand reaching out to a heart in doubt
It’s the smallest spark that can light the dark

Source for lyrics

When art reentered my life so recently through crochet, these truths came together for me. For two years previous, I had studied Christian spirituality. In that course we covered the early church fathers and mothers, people who hid themselves away from the world to pray and to help the poor. Some of these people of the faith wrote of their experiences and these writings benefit us today. Through their influence, the scriptures about not letting your right hand know what your left hand is doing and going into a private place to pray came alive for me (Matthew 6:6 and Matthew 6:3, respectively). This is how we influence the world. Jesus said so. Acting in private, keeping our devotional times and deeds quiet creates an outflow that affects the people around us.  It affects our creativity; our creative expressions become our outward prayer as we seek to bless others. It is in normalcy that is influenced by compassion where our chief influence lies.

This is not a popular message. Go to any high school graduation and listen to the speeches. Most of them tell the students that they are destined to do great things. Some are, perhaps, but most are not. These speeches are not a bad thing, but they are misleading. They place undue pressure on people because most of those students will go out to live normal, quiet lives. As George Bailey said in the holiday classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” they “do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community.” That’s life. That’s the way it is for most people. It is through these people most of God’s efforts to change the world take place. I’d say that is a pretty high calling. Wouldn’t you?