As I write this note to you the sun is setting and the voices of my children and husband float into my office as they are reading their bedtime stories. I’m surrounded by a few of my favorite things: a candle, pictures, a piece of pottery, inspirational quotes, and letters from friends and family. Each object has a story and connects me to people and places. Isn’t that such a gift of our belongings? They bear witness to our lives, loves, and where we’ve been. It’s one of the reasons I love to host Show & Tell nights. Yes, just like in elementary school.
While I was on a church internship in Milwaukee a group of women would meet throughout the year for show & tell nights. We’d meet in our homes, share food, and open our hearts to one another. I still can picture the women gathered in a circle in my small apartment. Each story offered became a part of me. Since that time I’ve continued to gather women together and thanks to technology, 20 of us virtually shared in a show & tell night last month.
A group of women joined me – in their homes, offices, cars, bedrooms, at the kitchen table – surrounded by bookshelves, couches, piles of clothes, and baby toys. I could feel the connections across the screen with laughter, vulnerability, and tears. Objects were lifted up bearing witness to where the women had been and where they hope to go. One by one we shared our items:
A favorite cookbook, a black purse, a framed picture, a jewelry box, a well-loved book, letters, a yoga mat, a favorite drink.
Simple objects, really. But if we let them, our objects can tell a powerful story of faith and belief. A story of our lives and a story of the God who created us and the world.
This is the lesson we learn at church over and over again: simple, tangible objects can and do contain the holy. We touch and taste the bread and wine. We feel the water on our forehead marking the sign of the cross. Bread, wine, and water show us what it means to be transformed by our objects.
Bread, wine, and water.
But it’s never just bread, wine, and water.
With each bite of bread, sip of wine, and splash of water, we are reminded that God comes to us in the most intimate, personal, and tangible ways.
With each bite of bread we proclaim that Christ is with us.
With each sip of wine we trust that forgiveness is ours.
With every splash of water we teach that grace is unending.
This holiness is all around us.
Look around your house, what objects will you not discard?
What are the stories behind your most precious items?
Sit down with a friend or family member, show them your objects, and tell them your stories. Bear your heart. Be vulnerable. Show someone what’s most important to you.
Kimberly Knowle-Zeller is an ordained ELCA pastor, mother of two, and spouse of an ELCA pastor. She lives with her family in Cole Camp, MO. You can read more at her website, follow her work on Facebook, or sign up for her monthly newsletter.