Gridley Herald - Gridley, CA
Finding the sacred in everyday life
Day 23: Welcoming the manger
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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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Sometimes my creative ideas get away from me. They start out innocently enough. Maybe I canít find exactly what Iím looking for or I donít like the sticker price so I think Iíll make it myself. Then, before I know what is happening, Iíve invested 20 hours of time and more money than Iíd care to admit.
My husband knows this about me and Ė now that he is in charge of balancing the checkbook and paying the bills Ė he tries to tether me to reality.
Thatís what I thought he was doing last month when he listened patiently to my proposal that we build a manger as a family, even though we have no saws and no experience with working with wood. Before I could explain how lumber stores would probably cut the wood for us and how this could become a family heirloom, Brian weighed in and suggested we use something we already own to hold our baby Jesus.
I wanted us to build something as a family, and I wanted it to be rustic and charming and new like all the pictures Iíd seen on craft Websites.
But Jesusí manger wasnít new. It was something already there in the stable, something mundane and humble.
So, I listened as Brian asked what happened to the long wooden bowl we filled with apples in the fall. Wouldnít that hold the doll weíll be using?
He was right. It was a perfect fit, and we still have the boysí baby blankets stitched with love Ė theyíll keep our baby Jesus warm on Christmas morning.
Since I didnít spend time making a manger, I was able to create a banner for our fireplace that reads ďA child is born.Ē I made it with craft supplies left over from other projects because this year I want to remember that Jesus didnít come to a five star hotel with a list of demands for the concierge. He came to place that was crowded, a place where ordinary people would choose to welcome him by sharing what they already had.
And those offerings? They became sacred.
An everyday stable. A common feeding trough. Average olí straw for the oxen.
All sacred when shared with love.
My thrift store bowl that once held apples. My cardboard letters meant for an alphabet book. My second-hand dining table that will welcome loved ones on Christmas.
All mundane. All humble. All gifts.
All meant to welcome.
Remember a couple of days ago when I mentioned that the dog and I were the only healthy ones in my household? Well, that’s no longer true for either of us. Her stomach is on the mend and I think I’ve rounded the corner to feeling better, but I did miss posting yesterday. I do apologize, and I can’t promise to make it up. So, forgive me?

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