Rosaries and ugly sweaters

I’ve been making jewelry for years, but just recently started making rosaries: a practice that began in Covid lockdown, when I had an abundance of beads and little to do. As a Catholic-flavored Anglican, the rosary is a helpful visual for me during times of quiet prayer. 

I grew up in a home with mezuzahs: small decorated boxes containing rolled-up parchment with the verses from Deuteronomy 6. They serve as a literal reminder to Jews to remember their spiritual obligations. For me, the rosaries I’ve made that hang all over my house have the same function.

For the last few years, because of the pandemic, most conversations I’ve had about faith have been limited to texting or social media. One of the most unlikely places they are happening lately is at local farmer’s markets, where I sell my handmade rosaries and jewelry. Occasionally a customer will ask how I got into making them.

When wearing an “ugly Christmukkah sweater” (“Deck the halls with matzo balls”), sometimes the questions from customers go even deeper: like how a Jewish girl goes from matzo balls to rosary making in the first place (yes, I know the sweater is mixing up holidays – matzo balls are a Passover staple, not a Hanukkah one – but it rhymes and made me laugh, okay?).

Learning to Integrate Faith in Daily Life

Lately I’ve been surprised at how easy it’s been to have these conversations in a crowded market; how naturally the answers flow out of me without awkward hesitation or pause (and I’m an introvert, so this really is a huge deal). In my early years as a Christian (14 years ago!), well-meaning friends tried to file down my testimony into a sort of elevator pitch: something I could share on the fly, because evangelism is an integral part of the Christian life.

I truly believed I had to provide my entire life story to strangers, which seems so ridiculous now. Needless to say, I dreaded having to share my faith, and would go to great lengths to avoid the subject altogether. 

One big reason it was so hard to share my faith back then was because faith was still so new, and I hadn’t yet figured out the ways in which it would impact my life. I knew I was no longer supposed to hook up or use bad language and other obvious things. I had yet to figure out the ways in which faith could underscore the most mundane activities like going to work or doing laundry or sitting in traffic. 

I didn’t understand how every little thing could be done for the glory of God. How God could work in the smallest of moments that felt annoying or pointless. I had yet to be molded by the scriptures I was reading, the prayers I was praying, and the sermons I was hearing. It was like starting a new diet or exercise regimen, and not seeing immediate results. Only by keeping up with it, making it routine, would the results start to appear. 

For me, that new routine took a few years to take hold and show fruit. People are rarely “made new” overnight. 

Driven by love, not an agenda

Fourteen years later, faith is so deeply integrated in my life, the answers come easily. When a customer asks me how I got started making rosaries, I can say without hesitation that I wanted a tangible reminder of God’s presence in my daily life. And to be reminded to pray even outside the bounds of “quiet time.” 

When another customer (having noticed my sweater) asked what drew me to Christ, I was able to tell her about being mesmerized by the miracle of the incarnation – God becoming flesh – in a way that, I hope, made me sound like a woman in love, and not like a street preacher with a bullhorn. Or a cult member reciting her lines. Genuine, rather than agenda-driven.

It was a conversation that lasted about fifteen minutes and ended with exchanging contact information, so I guess that means I didn’t botch it.

All because of an ugly Christmukkah sweater and some shiny beads.


Support my writing with a tip via Paypal or Venmo, or check out my books