Beyond Words

Words, Wit and Wisdom for Today's Style and Decision Makers

Angels Among Us April 22, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 12:03 am

 

Today many of us are celebrating angels announcing that Jesus was raised from dead and at Christmas we sing “Angels We Have Heard on High.” Angels are thought to blow trumpets and play harps, but do they really? Who are angels and what do we really know about them?

 

Photo credit: Deannart 

We know they are not hard to find…and I don’t mean those “angels” of friends, coworkers, and family members or real angels from heaven. I’m talking the plethora of angel depictions ready to be scooped up by shoppers and collectors the world over. Step into any Hobby Lobby (and thank you for closing on Sundays BTW), Target, or fine art gallery and you’re sure to find angels emblazoned on everything from canvases to coffee mugs, including beautiful ones painted by Franklin, Tennessee artist Deann Hebert. Society is definitely fascinated by these heavenly beings, but why?

 

I can’t answer that question, other than perhaps we are all in search of good and protection, something angels are and provide. The word “angel” comes from the Greek “angelos,” meaning messenger, which so accurately describes who they are: God’s messengers.

 

 

Still, even though they are often drawn and depicted with wings and halos, they are believed to have no physical form so we don’t really know what angels look like regardless of all those paintings and drawings we come across. What we do know is that angels are spiritual beings created by God to do His will. They are God’s messengers and ministers of His mercy and compassion. Immortal beings, angels have appeared to humans as apparitions with a human form. They are not, however, souls of the faithful departed and when we die and get to heaven, we don’t become angels. I guess we don’t truly “earn our wings” after all.

 

Angels can be found throughout the bible, with today’s Easter story being one of more famous accounts of angelic intervention. Others include an angel announcing the Christ child’s birth to the shepherds on Christmas and the angel Gabriel appearing to Mary and telling her she will bear the Messiah. If you have a nativity you display at Christmas, it most definitely has an angel up top.

 

 

Gabriel isn’t the only angel known by name, as both Michael and Raphael are mentioned by name in scripture. They are called archangels because of their important roles in God’s plan.  St. Michael, whose name means, “one who is like God” and who has a loyal and ardent following, led an army of angels against the devil and is portrayed holding an armored shield and sword ready to defend us in battle.

 

Without going into too much biblical detail, I will also add two other often somewhat well-known angels part of the nine choirs or types of angels identified in the Bible: the seraphim and the cherubim. After the Fall of Adam and Eve, the cherubim guarded the entrance to the Garden of Eden, while angels protected Lot and his family in Sodom and Gomorrah, and an angel promised Moses the protection of the people on their way to the Promised Land. Psalm 91:11 is a favorite of mine in that it says, “For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” I paraphrase and refer to this scripture regularly, especially when someone I love is travelling as I ask God to “put your angels around her/him/them” and get whoever it is safely to their destination. I just did this today when my daughter left to return home after visiting for Easter.

 

There are also angels in Revelation and in Matthew 24:31-35, it is written that “He will send His angels with a loud trumpet call and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.”

 

 

In the meantime, each and every one of us has a Guardian Angel assigned to just us. The photo above is one seen in millions of homes and its accompanying prayer was one of the very first ones I ever learned. Our Guardian Angels are God’s ambassadors to help us avoid sin and evil, keep us in a state of grace, and get us to heaven. From the very beginning of your existence, your Guardian Angel has been concerned about you and working for you and upon death, the angel will present your soul and plead your case. If your ask your Guardian Angel for help, he or she will help you. (That’s another thing, angels are often thought to be female, but that’s not the case.) Think of them as a friend who you can’t really see but if you listen with your heart, you just might hear wise words of wisdom and direction.

 

Too deep and too much to handle? Pray about it and ask your Guardian Angel for help!

 

 

Trust me, I’d always heard about Guardian Angels but never really looked into the subject until I did a bible study on them. I was amazed to learn that everyone has their own personal Guardian Angel and that there are Guardian Angels for all kinds of occupations, places, and ages. What an awesome thing, right? I just love the idea that an angel is there to defend me, inspire me, protect me, warn me, hear me, and console me.  I also love that my angel prays with me and for me and is pretty much my personal rep to God. And I don’t need an app for that or have to press 1 for help.

 

In turn though, I have responsibilities and duties toward my angel. I must always remember I am in the presence of my Guardian Angel and act accordingly, both in thoughts and actions. I fail at this daily, but again, my angel is there to hear me and continue working overtime to guide me. I love the suggestion of every morning upon waking up, greeting my angel, and asking for continued prayer and protection. At bedtime, it’s time to thank my Guardian Angel for another day of shelter and safeguarding.

 

There are other ways to honor your Guardian Angel, including on Tuesdays, which are dedicated to Holy Angels; as well as October 2, the Feast Day of Guardian Angels; and September 29, the Feast of the Archangels. How ‘bout every Tuesday you take the time to honor your Guardian Angel and ask for specific guidance?

 

 

All four gospels write that the angels announcing Jesus’ resurrection were clothed in white or dazzling garments, sometimes “white as snow” dress and brilliant robes. This is probably how many of you picture angels, more so than any chubby cherub or harp-playing flying being. Still, we don’t know for sure. What we do know is that Jesus rose from the dead. How do we know? A little angel told us.

 

Happy Easter everyone!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Praying with Fire April 17, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 1:27 am

 

It has hosted kings and presidents the world over and survived numerous battles and invasions, but yesterday Paris’ iconic Notre Dame Cathedral could not survive a devastating fire. Although the main interior of the medieval Catholic Church is in relatively good shape considering the scope of the fire, its main roof and famous spire both collapsed as millions watched on TV and on the streets of Paris. The City of Love showed its love for its beloved cathedral and it was all so heart wrenching to watch both historically and personally.

 

 

I love Paris and just last year my daughter and I visited Notre Dame and I’d previously done so with my husband. Notre Dame was his favorite Paris site and he still uses the keychain he got there. As for my daughter, upon entering the majestic cathedral she was quickly told her uncovered shoulders were not allowed, prompting her to begrudgingly put on the packable and portable rain jacket I had in my purse. Frown and all, she marveled at the architecture and stained glass windows, and afterward she and I grabbed an outside table at Le Notre Dame bar and restaurant that sits directly across from the church. What fabulous memories of one fabulous landmark.

 

 

But enough about me. Let’s talk the grande dame herself.

 

 

If there can by any silver lining in yesterday’s devastating news, it is that because the structure was undergoing a renovation, many of the statues and pieces of art had been removed and last I heard the main structure and rectangular bell towers were saved. As for relics and works of art housed inside Notre Dame, it was with great relief to learn that first responders and their chaplain priest formed a human chain inside the burning building to save one of the world’s most priceless relics: Jesus Christ’s Crown of Thorns. Can you even imagine? I’m still in awe and in shock. And it doesn’t end there, housed with the Crown in the cathedral’s treasury were also a fragment of the cross Jesus was crucified on, one of the Holy Nails used to crucify Him, and the 13th century tunic of St. Louis.  It is all a miracle to say the least and what better week to witness miracles of this scale then Holy Week: Christianity’s holiest of weeks.

 

And this may be my favorite photo taken yesterday. Amidst all the rubble and devastation stands the gold altar cross beaming brightly above the almost untouched pieta:

 

 

As travel guru Rick Steves said, it’s hard to imagine the faith of those who built Notre Dame, all with hopes that their great-great-great-great- great- grandchildren may someday attend the dedication mass. They put so much time and labor into the structure; a structure they knew they’d never see finished. That is faith. A faith that in many ways sadly no longer exists today. Magnificently prophetic? Perhaps.

 

Notre Dame itself sits magnificently on the Ile de la Cite, the island on the River Seine that is the geographical heart of Paris and in the hearts of many Parisian. It’s actually where the medieval city was founded and all road distances in France are calculated from the 0 km point of the square facing Notre Dame’s western side…the very side my daughter and I faced as we enjoyed our rose and cheese plate after our tour.

 

The name “Notre Dame” means “Our Lady” in French and is a reference to Mary the mother of Jesus. The Cathedral is a symbol of Paris, Catholicism, and Christianity worldwide. It is also the city’s most visited monument, welcoming some 13 million people a year.  It ranks in the Top 10 of world destinations and Top 5 of European destinations and is even more popular than Paris’ other landmark: The Eiffel Tower.

 

 

Ironically, when the church was built it was considered a “poor people’s book” as it was covered in sculpture and details illustrating biblical stories because the majority of its parishioners were illiterate. Centuries later, both rich and poor, educated and uneducated, marvel at its beauty. Yes, it’s a Catholic church first and foremost, but it’s also an architectural wonder and world treasure.

 

The Cathedral of Notre Dame took more than 200 years to build and it is said that craftsman no longer exist who could replicate what the original creators built. Its foundation stone was laid in 1163 by Pope Alexander III and the cathedral was completed in the 13th century. The building consisted of 52 acres of timber and was nicknamed “The Forest,” a fact that made it distinctive but may have also made it combustible, allowing the fire spread so quickly.

 

One of Europe’s most notable monuments, Notre Dame is considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture and in addition to the timber used to build it, it includes other innovative and distinctive features.

 

The use of the rib vault and flying buttresses are still considered brilliantly before their time in that by using them, the roof’s entire weight was pressed outward and onto the walls, allowing them to be higher and stronger. They also added a stunning exterior to the already striking building.

 

And those famous  gargoyles and other menancing creatures? They too had a practical purpose. Added to the structure in around 1240, they were actually rain spouts, designed to divide torrents of water that poured from the roof during rain storms. Because all aspects of building Notre Dame were labors of love however, they were also designed to be decorative and architecturally interesting.

 

During World War II, it was rumored German soldiers were going to destroy much of the church and its beautiful stained glass windows, which were removed and then reinstalled after the war. During the liberation of Paris in 1944, the cathedral suffered damage but was soon used to celebrate the liberation of Paris from the Germans in a Catholic mass attended by General Charles De Gaulle and other dignitaries.

 

Prior to that and in the 1790s, Notre Dame suffered ruin during the French Revolution and much of its religious imagery was destroyed including large statues on the façade. The only statue that remained intact was that of our Lady, the Virgin Mary. It was at this time that the cathedral became a warehouse of war goods and food and not until Napoleon Bonaparte made Notre Dame a church again did Notre Dame again celebrate mass.  Fittingly, the 800-year-old treasure was the site of Napoleon’s crowning in 1804.

 

“Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.” Victor Hugo

 

In 1831, the gothic masterpiece was forever immortalized with the publication of Victor Hugo’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and popularity began to soar. It’s never looked back.

 

 

Notre Dame is undeniably one of the world’s most recognized structures and was home to priceless art and historic relics and artifacts – in addition to the Crown of Thorns – and as Bishop Robert Barron said, it is also one of the most spiritually charged places in the world. It’s where France’s beloved Joan of Arc was beatified by Pope Pius X in 1909 and her statue inside is adored by many.

 

 

Photo credit: Michelle Campbell Davila

Then there are the windows; those fabulous stained glass windows of which The Rose Windows are the most famous. One of them is said to be the world’s largest glass window. The trio of ginormous and glorious round windows over the cathedral’s three main portals were salvaged, but apparently others were greatly damaged. If you’ve ever walked inside Notre Dame and gazed up at the windows, you know what a colossal loss this is.

 

 

That spire that so tragically collapsed yesterday? The original one was constructed in the 13th century but was battered and weakened by wear and tear of the weather and was removed in 1786. It was recreated in the 19th century and weighed 750 tons. In another twist of fate…or faith…the spire was surrounded by copper statues of Twelve Apostles, which were removed for the current restoration just days before yesterday’s fire.

 

 

 

Photo credit: Karen Sonleitner

Also famous are the basilica’s bells and bell towers, which when completed, were Paris’ tallest structures until the Eiffel Tower was erected in 1889.The cathedral has a total of 10 bells, including the main bell called Emmanuel, which weighs in at 13 tons. It rang for every 9/11 victim in 2001 and marks significant moments in French history, including the coronation of kings, Papal visits, heads of state funerals, and Catholic occasions like Christmas and Easter.

 

Equally impressive is the church’s 17th century grand organ, considered one of the world’s most famous musical instruments. The organ boasts 115 stops and more than 8,000 pipes. As I write this, there is no word as to the condition of this irreplaceable and historic instrument.

 

Until yesterday’s tragic fire, Notre Dame was still in use by the Catholic Church for Sunday mass as was the seat of the Archbishop of Paris.  While the building itself is owned by the state, the Catholic Church is the designated beneficiary and has exclusive rights to use it for religious purposes.

 

Plans are already in place to rebuild Notre Dame but where do you even begin? And how? It’s not like you send out bids to contractors to refurbish oh, just Notre Dame. But French President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to see Notre Dame rebuilt within five years and nearly $700 million has been pledged by people and corporations across France and even the world. The president of The University of Notre Dame said the school would give $100,000 toward the renovation.

 

Paris officials were expecting more than 100,000 people to walk through Notre Dame’s doors Easter Sunday, many of whom will now pay their respects outside like the thousands did yesterday. Young and old showed up with rosaries, singing hymns, and praying as one. That’s how important Notre Dame is to Paris, but why does it always take a tragic event like this to bring people together in faith and hope?

 

It is said that during the Middle Ages, when a fire struck, Christians took it as a sign to renew their faith and rebuild their church. Maybe this is a sign that we need to, yes, rebuild Notre Dame, but also our faith as a whole.

 

I’m sure I’m not the only one remembering a visit to Notre Dame and being in total awe of all its history and glory. I can’t even imagine what the people of Paris and all of France are feeling but many are comparing it to their very own 9/11. Yesterday’s tragedy at of one of the world’s most sacred places perhaps can best be summed up by Camille from Normandy who watched as flames blazed through the frame of one of the cathedral’s smaller stained glass windows and told “The Guardian,” “There’s a feeling of total sadness and also anger. It’s our heritage. Whether you’re Christian or not, part of our history is going up in smoke.”

 

We’re with you Paris. Today, we are all Parisians.

 

As I wrote this blog, I was struck by the photos used in it as well as these I leave you with:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who Wears the Pants…and the Leggings April 7, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 6:54 pm

It’s a rainy somewhat miserable day today, which was the case yesterday too. I gotta admit though, I love the rain. It’s often the only “weather” we get where I live, so a couple of rainy days really don’t bother me. I find them the perfect time to take a hot bath, read a good book, and hop into some cozy yoga pants. Baths and books have been around forever, but what’s up with yoga pants? They can be seen all over and often on women who have never stepped foot in a yoga class. I personally love yoga but even I find it a bit baffling that fashion’s “athleisure” (i.e.: “athletic” meets “leisure”) trend has taken over closets everywhere and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.

 

And I’m okay with that.

 

 

Basically this fashion craze consists of clothing traditionally reserved for gyms and yoga studios now being worn in workplaces, schools, and just about anywhere. Attention Kmart shoppers: gym clothes have left the gym. And maybe most importantly is that, yes, they can still be found in Kmart and other discount retailers, but also in department stores and luxury shops. Although originally designed as clothing meant to look athletic but with really no technical athletic function, athleisure soon became more than that and continues to be whatever it wants to be.

 

“Sweats,” as the term used to be, were once reserved for gyms and homes. But, as much as you may have loved your draw-string, elastic-ankle sweatpants, you would never wear them out on a daily basis. But with a societal and generational increased interest in all things health and fitness came improved activewear fabrics and textiles, which made them not only more comfortable to wear out and about, but let’s be honest, they give the appearance that you are an “active” person whether you are or not. Add a plethora of styles and colors and you have yourself fashion.

 

 

 

Previously though, you’d never go shopping in them much less to a restaurant or work. Times have changed though and we are officially a nation of yoga pants wearers. Just look around. You’ll see women everywhere wearing not only traditional yoga pants (usually slightly flared at the bottom with a wide waistband) but leggings, cropped leggings, and the stripes down the side track pants. Everywhere. And as if they were regular ole’ pants.

 

In a time when “breaking barriers” is trending and buzzing, you could say activewear is leading the (run)way in that it’s truly breaking fashion barriers in offices and restaurants coast-to-coast. I love the style because you can dress it up or dress it down. Put on pair of sneakers and you have a casual but stylish look. Add some heels and a fashionable top or jacket and voila, girl’s night out here I come!

 

But, how did we get here?

 

 

So big is the athleisure market that U.S. imports of women’s elastic knit pants (yes, that’s really what they are ladies regardless of any logos or pricetags), surpassed those of jeans for the first time ever according to 2017 U.S. Census Bureau figures. It’s officially fashion’s “new casual” and today you can find more than 11,000 versions of activewear options that Americans spend nearly $50 billion on a year. The trend is not just reserved for pants and leggings though. Step into any athleisure store or department and you’ll find everything from athletic tops to sports bras. Shorts are also still in the mix and those “messy buns” you see women sporting? Yep, athleisurely hair.

 

Blame it on improved fitness? Blame it on fashion laziness? Some say blame it on Lulu.

 

 

Lulu, as in retailer Lululemon, sold its first pair of yoga pants back in 1998 after Canadian Chip Wilson attended a yoga class for his aching back and not only loved the class, but the pants his yoga instructor was wearing. A lightbulb went off in the retail entrepreneur’s head and Lululemon was born. The pants that make your backside look good have never looked back.

 

According to Bloomberg News, Wilson and Lulu’s initial leggings were meant for fitness studios and were a mix of nylon and Lycra. They were stretchy and soft and were just what many yogis were looking for. Lulu trademarked its original “Luon” fabric in 2005 and today boasts an R&D headquarters to explore things like “the science of feel” and to develop fabrics specific to particular activities. The brand had 2018 revenues of $3.2 billion and is unequivocally considered the coolest of the cool in the fitness apparel industry. Its famous “That Girl” logo, as I like to call it, is as coveted as any interlocking Gs or Cs. Personally I find the prices somewhat high and the stores a bit intimidating (I’m more a Target and Athleta girl) but Lulu lovers swear by the products and are considered one of fashion and retail’s most ardent representations of brand loyalty. Lulu lovers love their Lulu.

 

 

The double Gs at Gucci have taken note. Business Insider recently reported that Gucci is suddenly hip and happening with millennials much in part to its embracing of what is also called “streetwear” so often spotted on the supermodels, reality stars, and singers millennials religiously follow and imitate fashion-wise.  It seems this younger segment of the working and spending population is more concerned with uniqueness then luxury and their fashion dependence on athleisure has created a whole new fashion market. Alessandro Michele was brought on by Gucci as creative director and he quickly directed the creation of streetwear emblazoned with the company’s logo. It was a hit and competitors quickly followed suit.

 

But let’s get this straight, yoga has been around for more than 2,500 years and spandex was on the scene long before Studio 54, so what gives? Why now stretchy fabric and why so much of you?

 

 

UNLV Fashion Historian (now there’s a job I’d love to have) Deirdre Clemente told The Atlantic she thinks she has the answer and it’s threefold. First, synthetic fabrics are vastly improved; second, society is much more health and healthy appearance conscious; and third, there is a true relaxation of dress codes going on resulting in a decline of fashion formality. So you have versatile fabrics made into fashionable quality lifestyle apparel that make you look healthy. What’s not to love and makes perfect fashion sense, right?

 

 

Yes and no. One must be careful and cautious about just what athleisure ware to wear. It should go without saying that if you’re a bit on the plus size, leggings may not be the most flattering choice. Opt instead for yoga-style or looser fitting pants and make sure those bums are covered up. Your fitness level should be considered too, as well as your age. You might be on the thinner side, but if you’re not toned maybe steer away from clothing that is extremely tight or sleeveless and keep in mind age matters. What a 23-year-old wears might not be age appropriate for a 53-year-old, regardless of size and shape. And call me old-fashioned, but I think sports bras should be worn solo only when truly working out…in a gym…and if you have the body for one. Okay and maybe if you’re Gigi or Bella.

 

Forecasters say there is no end in sight for this fashion moment, so consider tasteful and comfortable ways you can incorporate it in your wardrobe if you haven’t already. My guess is you have and you’re loving every cozy minute of it. Namaste!