Angels We Have Heard on Ties
This piece of art is created and named with a humorous nod to my father who loved going to church and singing out loud and proud. He always wore his tie and he loved the Christmas season. I remember the first Christmas that I returned to celebrate with my parents in Minnesota. As the clock announced 6 o’clock on Christmas Eve, Dad told me to bundle up and join him outside. He didn’t say why he wanted me to do this, just "Come outside." I stepped out the door and heard the bell at Vernes ringing its announcement of the arrival of Christmas. The sound rolled over the snow covered fields and we stood away from the house in knee deep snow listening to the night after the bell stopped. When I looked at him, it was easy to see that memories were rolling over him.
"When I was growing up," he began, "we always used to come out and listen to the bell ringing-in-Christmas. For us this is when it began." He continued, "I remember everyone coming out to listen to the bell. This is Christmas to me."
That night my father gave me a lasting memory and it has served as an inspiration for this new quilt. I wanted to bring a little bit of him back to the church he loved so much. It only makes sense that his ties and dress shirts should be incorporated into the angel who announces the coming of the Christ-child.
The dark ties represent the vast star-filled heavens that have been created by God and that with the angel’s proclamation were filled with a great light, which are the light gray ties. The lines of these gray ties and the angel’s wings suggest the Easter cross. Dad had an old robe that comforted him at the end of a day, as well as when he felt less than 100%. The yellow terrycloth of this robe became the angel’s hair and the background for the ties. The angel has light colored hair to remind us of our own youth, and the joys of discovery and trust that children feel. The yellow background reassures us that God has a plan, and his comfort is here.
The four corners of the quilt display three buttons each. The buttons are small but they remind us that God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are ever present.
Whenever Dad saw a sewing project of mine, he would ask what I was ‘building.' The lines of the angel are straight because I built an angel to honor my father.
If you listen, you might be able to hear him singing:
Angels, we have heard on High,
Sweetly singing o’er the plains,
And the mountains in reply,
Echoing their joyous strains.
God and the Everyman
Some people are uncomfortable getting dressing up and presenting themselves regularly in the House of God. Their world is a place where they celebrate the presence of God in their everyday actions. Our world is filled with men and women who do this regularly. They are ordinary people who affect others as they move through each day. In the fifteenth century this ordinary person would be referred to as an “Everyman.”
Karsten Syverson was an “Everyman.” He had a relationship with God that didn’t require four walls to celebrate. He owned two ties that were worn when he did attend church; they now compose the cross in the wall hanging. Covering the center of the cross is a favorite hat of his, reminding us that a man displays humility and respect by removing his hat and covering his heart in a demonstration of respect and honor. Holding the outstretched arms of the cross in space are the straps that held up Karsten’s coveralls. They leave the impression that the arms of the cross are being held in surrender, or if a person moved close enough, they would gather him/her into an embrace. The cross is suspended over Karsten’s real wardrobe, the comfortable and serviceable denim coveralls. He was happy in the garments of the common man.
God gave us the keys to eternal life, whereas Karsten wore his ‘Keys’ every day. The fasteners from his coveralls and jacket are incorporated into the wall hanging to act as a reminder of the keys to salvation that God has given us, and sometimes we view the church and religion in terms of its “Faded Glory.” Perception is in the eye of the beholder, a presence that is viewed as faded to some is shining brightly to another.
There was a time when he walked around singing a favorite hymn and when he finished, he laughed and said, "I am going to sing that hymn at my own funeral if I die real quick." The name of the hymn doesn’t matter as much as the fact that Karsten knew that there is a world beyond the one we inhabit. He celebrated the life of the “Everyman” in his actions and his beliefs. He didn’t make a fuss about much, but attacked each venture with a sense of adventure.
Karsten Syverson brightened the lives of the people around him and demonstrated his faith as a husband, father, grandfather, neighbor and friend. He was happy singing and humming hymns as he traveled the course of his day. He was a Syverson, always ready to have a cup of coffee and share a tale or two.
But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.”
Show me your faith apart from your works,
and I by my works will show you my faith.
There are many different types of people in this world.
We are better for having known Karsten Syverson.
He was an ordinary man who made a difference in people’s lives.
I Am Always with You
This banner was made from fabric that Verna gave me in the mid 1990s. I told her at the time that I could use the fabric to make a banner for Vernes. Her response was that she never wanted to see the fabric again. So, I put it away (other than using the dresses in the Christmas pageant once or twice). I began thinking more seriously about how to use the fabrics when I learned that Verna was seriously ill during the winter of 2002. No matter how much I thought about them and where they could hang in the church, no design idea came to me.
On July 30, within minutes of my father telling me that Verna had passed away—I knew that the design had to emanate from the star on a piece of fabric that Verna had given me. Then the embroidered neck jumped out at me and before I knew it, the cross had been cut and the golden neckline had become a broken ring.
The design had come together in less than an hour and the symbolism seemed so appropriate. This banner has been designed to honor Verna, who lived to honor Christ, so it was fitting that the star representing the Star of Bethlehem and the beginning of Christ’s earthly existence would be placed at the heart of the cross. The arms of the cross represent the Easter Story and the end of Christ’s life as a man. Verna’s neckline is intertwined with the arms of the cross and rays shooting from the star. This represents how she wove her life around Christ and his teachings. The ring is broken to remind us that all humans can pattern their lives after the teachings of Christ—but we are all imperfect.
When the banner was complete and I stepped back to look at it, a little voice said “I will always be with you—remember me kindly.” It struck me that it was almost the same parting the Christ had given his disciples on the mountain in Galilee before he ascended into heaven.
“And be assured, I am with you always, to the end of time.”
Matthew 27, 20
This quilt was presented to and hangs in the sanctuary of Vernes Lutheran Church in McIntosh, Minnesota.