The Daily Register - Harrisburg, IL
Finding the sacred in everyday life
When towels — and faith — get messy
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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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Nov. 14, 2013 12:01 a.m.

MamaSewing2My favorite dishtowels are the ones that Mama makes. They’re usually simple unbleached muslin with a healthy dose of hand embroidery.
Mama doesn’t think her embroidery work is anything special, but when I wrapped my youngest son in one of her quilts and took him to the pediatrician’s office, our nurse brought half the office in to see the handiwork. When my sister snuck around and entered one of Mama’s pillowcases in the fair, she won second place without even knowing she was competing.
Mama2So, when she sent me a new set of days-of-the-week towels with some of my favorite flowers, I decided to use them only for decoration. I wanted them to remain forever free of stains. And that’s exactly how it worked for about a year — until Mama came to visit.
MamaSewing1This time she had tucked two other dishtowels in her suitcase, one with a bright yellow duck appliqued on it and another with purple pansies embroidered on it. I hung my favorite one, the one with purple pansies, on the stove handle where I could admire it and keep it safe, but in a flash it was gone. I found it crumpled up on the counter with splatters of chocolate cake batter.
Mama had used it.
If one of my boys had used my special towel, he would have gotten an ear full about all the work that had gone into creating that. Instead, I said nothing because it’s hard to argue with the creator. Besides I knew what Mama’s answer would have been. I made them to be used and enjoyed.
She’s right, really. Too often I save things. I protect them and pull them out only on special occasions, afraid that my day-to-day life is too messy. You can always bleach them, she tells me. The embroidery should still hold up.
So, now I hang each of the hand embroidered dishtowels on the door of the refrigerator where little fingers covered in markers and dirt find the dishtowels a hundred times a day, and I remind myself that if the creator isn’t afraid of stains maybe I shouldn’t be either.
It has been a good lesson for me, not just in the kitchen, but in my soul because I think about my Creator and how faith isn’t something designed to sit on a shelf or hang on a towel rack. It’s meant to move into the messiest areas of our lives – and into the messiest areas of our society – to bring healing.
And I have to believe its most beautiful parts, its compassion and mercy, will hold up to the task because that’s what it was meant to do. That’s what its Creator had in mind when he created it.

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