August 5, 2013

Fine China and Lace Ladies

In 41 years, the only time my husband has ever seen his mother’s fine china out of the cabinet is when they moved and it was boxed up. He has never seen it used.

When we moved this last time, I set my lace ladies on the top of the piano. These figurines are extraordinarily delicate. A workshop in southern Germany makes these, pouring porcelain over lace, creating exquisite, intricate dresses on these small statues.

For most of my life, I’ve kept them safety enshrined behind the glass of a china cabinet. With this latest move, they found a new place of honor.  And, oh I’ve enjoyed them. It’s silly, I know. But on a walk through the living room, I’ll catch a glimpse of them and am taken back to Bavaria, to trips as a child, to the first time I showed my husband this beautiful part of the world. When people come to visit, they often ask about the figurines, and I get to share their story. 

I’ve been thinking about fine china and lace ladies in our churches. I suspect that we often practice fine-china devotion and too rarely take the risk of setting out our 'lace ladies.' 

We have rainy day accounts for our rainy day accounts—money left in bequests that we’re too afraid to spend, lest it run out. I’m not proposing draining savings accounts or eating into an endowment’s principal. But sometimes, I’ve seen people argue against spending simply for the sake of maintaining the savings. Responsible stewardship is important, but we are also nonprofit organizations, intently designed not to make money but to help others. 

Sometimes we need to open up the fine-china account and refurbish the church nursery so it becomes a place of invitation and safety for the youngest members of the church. Sometimes that fine-china money can be used to purchase a van that transports people who are homeless from shelters to work sites or to prevent a much-needed food pantry from shuttering. 

I wonder: what are we willing to set out, to put on the mantel, to enjoy, and to really use? And what are we keeping shut up and gathering dust?