The Daily Register - Harrisburg, IL
Finding the sacred in everyday life
How to make room for Jesus
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Marketta Gregory never meant to be a columnist. \x34I trained to be a newspaper reporter -- one who tried to her best to be objective. I covered religion for a few years and felt like it was the best job a curious woman like me could ever have. ...
Simply Faithful
Marketta Gregory never meant to be a columnist. I trained to be a newspaper reporter -- one who tried to her best to be objective. I covered religion for a few years and felt like it was the best job a curious woman like me could ever have. Every day I got to listen as people told me about the things that were most important to them, the things that were sacred. But the newspaper industry was changing and few papers could afford to have an army of speciality reporters. So, I moved to cover the suburbs where, as luck would have it, they have plenty of religion, too. Eventually, children came into the picture. One by birth and another two months later by foster care/adoption. I struggled to chase breaking news and be home at a decent hour, so I made the move to what we journalists call the dark side: I took a job in public relations. (Don't worry. I work for a great non-profit, so it's not dark at all.) When I gave my notice at the Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle, the executive editor asked me to consider writing a column on a freelance basis. She didn't want the newspaper to lose touch with its religious sources, and she still wanted consistent faith coverage. I was terrified. It took me about 10 months to get back to her with a solid plan and some sample columns. And so it began, this journey of opening up my heart to strangers.
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Oct. 20, 2013 11:25 a.m.

doll1I suspect even the most dedicated collector has favorites. That one quartz he found on vacation as a boy. The postage stamp that came on the first letter from her pen pal.
At least it’s true for me, a recovering doll collector. Of all the dolls in my collection, there are a few that are always top of mind.
There’s the one in the tattered yellow dress. Nancy is her name. She was the one Mom bought me when I was a baby. The one I most liked to play with.
Then, there’s the Madame Alexander doll my best friend’s mom gave me – Cinderella with a shiny blue dress. It had been hers growing up and she wanted me to have it because she knew I’d treasure it. She was right.
But the dolls I always have on display at my house are my matryoshkas. I love the artistry of each nesting doll, and I like the visual reminder that we all have layers of stories to tell just beneath the outer surface.
A few of my Russian nesting dolls show women in intricately painted aprons, and two display Russian cities with shining domes. But my favorite set of dolls shows a series of religious icons, starting with Mary and baby Jesus. Four other icons are inside and sometimes I open up the set and display them all.
The last time I opened them and rearranged them, I paused when I got to the one that showed Jesus as an adult. I admired the gilded halo and the soft eyes, but just as I started to set it down, I noticed the empty shell of the larger doll.
To make room for Jesus, the first shell had to be emptied. The wood had to be carved and shaped and then, ever so carefully, crafted to fit back together.
Is it really so different for us?
For faith to have a place within, something else has to be carved out. Greed and gossip must go because love and humility and sacredness need space to grow.
It’s not an easy process, this letting go of selfishness to make room for what makes our selves better. But it does no good to paint the outside without clearing out the inside because without the clearing, the story ends before its time.
Instead of five nesting dolls, the story stops at four. Or at three.
The beauty that the artist had hoped to share is stunted. The story is shallow and the masterpiece unfinished.
So, we can hold on and remain intact, or we can let go and be made whole.

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