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A Little Think


When Nannie, my husband's aunt, died at 96, he inherited her silverware. Those stunning pieces now grace our table at each meal, along with candles and linens. I don't do this to be fancy. For us, it's practical; it's our only consistent way of mellowing out each day. Using this silverware has brought mixed reactions, however. My mother used to protest, "Don't use the silver and cloth napkins on us; it's too much trouble." Some of my friends wistfully wonder what it must take to have linens and candles on the table. Others tease me about such an upper-class tradition in my middle-class life.

So, why do I do it? Basically, it's because my husband grew up admiring the fancy silver that's now ours. He remembers going to the "big house" where his maiden aunts lived. It was filled with "do not touch" things, surrounded by old-world antique cupboards, sideboards, and huge feather beds. Mysterious, quiet, and museum-like, it was steadfastly the same year in and year out. When the eldest daughters of that home had lived together for 92 years, they passed on part of the mystery and loveliness -- the stability of sameness -- to us through that silverware.

How much trouble is it to keep candles on hand? What else quiets chaos like sitting together with meal partners, lighting candles, praying over food, and talking about the day? Our kids grew up with Nannie and Pickie, Ada and Arlie, Pudgie and Spooky and Alice at our table for family celebrations. They serenaded them with violins, blew up balloons, and made birthday cakes. Will the wonder of an age gone by -- an age of loveliness -- be carried on by my children's generation? I do my bit to stay in touch with a part of life I want to pass on. It's a part that can't be purchased, only observed and appreciated.

It's not so difficult to display and talk about quilts grandmothers made as keepsakes, and it's simple to pull up little things the kids made with tiny hands for Valentine's Day to warm a heart years later. How many ways can you gladden the hearts and lift the spirits of those who enter your home or office with a lovely touch from home? We are privileged with the obligation to honor and encourage one another. I agree with Helen Thames Raley: "In today's world . . . it is still women's business to make life better, to make tomorrow better than today."

Tomorrow, it seems to me, can be better without losing our treasured family traditions. I continue my family's quiet, candlelit dinners because the loveliness and the thankful prayers we offer at our meals provide food for our souls. Creating that kind of loveliness comes with a guarantee: it makes you beautiful in the eye of the beholder! The book of 1 Peter in the Bible passes on the secret of a beautiful woman: "The unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful . . . ." (1 Peter 3:4-5a).

Ask God to weave His creativity through you each day as you create your own loveliness. It gives a person a lift to be the doer of something beautiful. God is not so busy making clouds, turning the seasons, healing the sick, and swirling sand on the beach that He can't give you ideas to reflect that same creativity. Ask and the door shall be opened!

Nannie's silver isn't as shiny, or as outwardly beautiful, as it used to be. She didn't have a dishwasher; that was Pickie's job. Now, since mixing silver and stainless steel utensils in the dishwasher damages the silver, I separate the sterling silver to be washed by hand. I've learned a similar lesson from Scripture. It's a lesson about separating myself from corrupting influences, about being in but not of the world. We are thrown in with people of all faiths, some true, some not. We are surrounded by a culture that tells us the ways of the past aren't good enough anymore. To minimize the tarnish, we need to be a holy people -- "set apart" for service to God and each other. It's the Christian way of life.

May you be a lovely utensil in God's hands, whether your life represents a knife, a fork, or a spoon. You might be spoon-feeding someone nuggets of Truth based on God's Word, leading them along the Way, the Truth, and the Life. You might be a knife, helping to cut others' problems into smaller, more manageable pieces through God's guidance. Whatever utensil you will be today, be a sweetheart and keep your sparkle by separating yourself from the things that might tarnish you. It's a sure way to keep your sweet heart intact!

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