Category Archives: Tokens with meaning

Tokens – A Lighthouse

IMG_5526 lighthouse

Maine Lighthouse

 

This summer, while visiting Maine and Nova Scotia, I acquired a new token, adorned with a lighthouse. As we all know, lighthouses are stationary and exist to assist navigation and warn of dangerous waters.

The day started beautifully, as I took a boat tour of lighthouses. I sat quietly and enjoyed the sea air while I allowed my head to acclimate to the new day. I snapped pictures of lighthouses, and rested with my eyes closed in the sunshine between stops. I listened to the narrator telling stories about the history of each lighthouse, some of which are reportedly haunted.

Upon my return to town, my friends led me to a little shop with a small display of tokens like those I had acquired in Rhode Island – a hummingbird and compass. The acquisition of a new token is a serious decision, so I carefully looked over the selection. As soon as I saw a lighthouse, my decision was made.

Additionally, I learned that a portion of the proceeds for this specific token would be going to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, which had personal meaning to me as someone I care about has Lymphoma.

The lighthouse represents stability and guidance. It symbolizes perseverance and for me, my faith in God. I find encouragement when I look to the Bible for stability and guidance. Its stories warn me of the repetitive nature of our broken world. Its verses provide a light to my path and hope for the future. Its wisdom encourages me to persevere, even when I’m discouraged, and strengthens my relationship with God. It helps me feel that there is order and purpose in my life, despite turbulent waters and unexpected tides.

“You made me; you created me. Now give me the sense to follow your commands.” (Psalms 119:73 NLT)

Token – The compass that kept getting lost

IMG_5535 compass

Sally’s Compass

 

The compass dates back to the 14th century. It’s an instrument that has marks for each direction – North, South, East, and West. The needle always points north allowing the person holding the compass to assist in gauging their direction. The term “moral compass” is also used to represent guidance through life. The concept of a compass is that of grounding, of right and wrong.

Well, ironically – or maybe not – I got a compass token this summer that I lost twice. Seriously. Only due to serendipitous circumstances was it brought back to me both times.

I didn’t lose any other tokens. Only the compass. I felt a bit sick and very disappointed. You know, the feeling in the pit of your stomach that something is gone and there is nothing you can do about it?  Sometimes life brings huge losses to us much bigger than a lost charm.  We can only accept and adapt to life in a new light.

I acquired the compass on the same day that I found Gina’s hummingbird. It caught my eye in the display case and I kept returning to it. It wasn’t right as Gina’s token, but for me it seemed right. I’ve been on a wild ride in life, and have been challenged at times to know which way is north. I loved the little detail of the charm that marked not just the four directions, but fractions indicating that there is variation between the lines.

First I put it on my necklace. I liked it, but it just didn’t fit. So I removed it, and attached it to my bracelet with the hummingbird. Perseverance in the hummingbird was a good match for feeling grounded and knowing where my life was leading me.

I went on vacation with some friends and wore my bracelet.  I really liked it and would finger the tokens when idle. One day, after getting off a tour bus, my friend asked me where my compass was – as she held it up. She happened to catch it when it fell from my bracelet in the isle of the bus. Oh my, sigh of relief. We laughed though and I tucked it away safely until I could get it fixed.

Quickly I found a jeweler and had it reattached. I breathed a sigh of relief and went on with my day. When at dinner, it was gone again!  This time was very disappointing because we had been wandering around before dinner.  However, sometimes life gives us not only a second chance but also a third. Finding something that we thought was lost gives us a lift in our heart, and a sigh of relief that our mistake had been forgiven.

So, we traced our path prior to dinner. I’m quite sure I was providing entertainment to friends who would never trust me with a kitten after that.  Climbing a set of stairs,  I found the little silver, stretched open ring on the floor. Nearby was a bench that I had been sitting on earlier. I actually walked up to a nice elderly couple sitting on it and asked, maybe it sounded like a demand, that they get up and let me look in case it had fallen while sitting. Bewildered, they slowly rose.

In the meantime, one of my friends found it sitting on a little shelf by the bench. Someone had found it and set it aside in case I returned. How kind was that person who I will never know that had cared. How kind are many people in life who we never get a chance to thank – other than by being kind ourselves to the next person.

I once again tucked my compass into my purse in a safe spot. I couldn’t believe it. Twice lost and twice found. However, when I finally had it securely (I hope) attached permanently to the bracelet, I realized how appropriate the experience had been.

God has given me multiple second chances despite mistakes, circumstance, and fate. He is my compass in life and is always there even if I wander off for a while.

As with my other tokens, a little card was included in my purchase that explained that each direction on the compass has meaning. What the card didn’t state is there are many little variations in direction that can take us southwest, or northeast. A compass provides precise measurement while our lives provide many variations. Second chances and unique directions are what make us each special.

 

Tokens – Hummingbird

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Hummingbird

This summer I had to say goodbye to my little seal gray dog, Gina, who had stuck to my side like Velcro for over eleven years. I was sad, but content in doing my part to give her a great life and peaceful death.

Shortly after saying goodbye, I visited a friend in Rhode Island. While wandering through some little shops in the Providence area, Kathy introduced me to a line of jewelry stores. Established on the east coast, they sell American made jewelry in small main street settings. Their jewelry each has some type of symbolism or meaning, with many pieces contributing directly to charities.

We wandered around the store and looked at various charms. It occurred to me that I could get a charm on a bangle bracelet to remember Gina by. I looked in the cases and saw many options. There was a dog paw print, but it didn’t quite look right for delicate Gina. Another had an elephant face and trunk. Cute, it could be a good “remember forever” kind of token. Silver or gold medallions were adorned by initials, ladybugs with design and depth, as well as coin designs. Nothing seemed to fit.

And then I saw what would be my Gina token. It was a delicate hummingbird with black detail etched into contrasting silver. Of course, as part of a successful marketing plan, the store had little cards to explain the meaning of each token.  I read the little card that talked about wings that flutter in a pattern of an infinity symbol. Really?  I didn’t know that about hummingbirds. It further explained that hummingbirds are associated with continuity, healing, and persistence. Gina was persistent in her bond with me and gave me incredible emotional support through my brain surgery recovery.

Further, “Delicate yet strong” said the little square card in black and white. Wow. That was Gina. She was an Italian Greyhound. “Italian” refers to the toy version of a greyhound. Just like the big racers only tiny. Even though she was eleven when she died, she was still only fifteen pounds. She was built of delicate bones and tiny features. Yet she was strong. She never got tired regardless of the length of our walks. Her spirit was strong as she looked me with penetrating eyes that showed depth and understanding.

The final statement about the little hummingbird (that had more words to describe than substance to the charm) was a recommendation to wear the hummingbird charm to be “tenacious in the pursuit of dreams.”  Yep, that was the one. I am still pursuing dreams and will treasure Gina’s companionship throughout.

I have realized, that contrary to my preconceived belief that I’m not into symbolism, that I love reminders of significance in my life.

Goodbye my little friend.

Gina

Gina

(fyi reference – http://www.alexandani.com/ )

 

 

Tokens – Saint Christopher

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St. Christopher

Next to my lovely South Pacific pearl and Mayan coin hangs another medallion.  On an adventure to Italy, I visited Rome.  While I’m not Catholic, I couldn’t pass up a chance to visit the Vatican. I walked on uneven cobblestones and marveled at the uniqueness of the smallest internationally recognized independent state in the world by both area and population.  The buildings were large and old. Inside, the buildings varied from newly renovated and extravagant to old and decaying.

It took persistence to see the Vatican.  I visited it on three separate days.  It reminded me of the persistence that I need to have in my relationship with God.  On day one, I saw the outside, and didn’t want to wait in line to go inside.  I reveled at the outside architecture without stepping inside.

On day two, I decided that I needed to wait in line, but it was a Wednesday, which is the day that Pope Benedict XVI had a service.  I watched the pomp and circumstance as the service began and the stage filled with priests in black with red sashes.  Then, in glowing white, the Pope sat in the middle of the stage.  Several people spoke and then the Pope began his sermon.  I couldn’t understand him because he was so far away and speaking Italian.  However, it was a fascinating experience.  I learned that on “Pope” days, nobody is allowed inside. So I wandered across the street and meandered through the hectic streets of Rome.  I sat outside a small café and ate pizza margarita with slices of egg and ham.  I savored my Coca-Cola after slowly pouring from the little bottle into a small glass.

I wandered through some little shops and in one a collection of small medallions caught my eye.  I struck up a conversation with the shopkeeper who spoke broken English.  We had an awkward but fun conversation as we struggled to understand each other.  I told her that I wanted a medallion to add to my chain and gestured to my chain around my neck that held a token from Mexico.  She pointed to St Christopher, and explained that he is the saint of travel.

“Well, that sounds appropriate, so I’ll take it!”  I added the medallion to my chain and continued with my exploration of Rome, always careful to keep track of where I turned or stopped so I could return to my hotel safely.

On day three, my persistence paid off.  I was able to take a tour inside the buildings and marvel at the architecture and huge cathedral and buildings.  The Sistine Chapel was large and filled with people from wall to wall.  I was disappointed that instead of quiet reflection, I was surrounded by a noisy mob taking nonstop pictures despite a strong warning that no flash pictures are allowed. It was a warning that couldn’t possibly be enforced with the number of people packed in and passing through the holy chapel.  I wish I could have visited it alone to spend time in prayer and reflection.  I noted the parallel of the need for hectic lives to slow down and the irreverent crowd hurrying for a snapshot of the beautiful ceiling of history without pause to consider each colorful drawing’s story.

After getting home with my new medallion, I did some research on St. Christopher.  He is viewed as a saint of protection, particularly for protection during travel and long voyages. He was 7.5 feet tall, and was searching for the greatest King there was.  When he saw a human king show fear for the Devil, he turned to the Devil as the greatest.  However, he then learned that the Devil fears Christ, and turned to Christ.  He dedicated his life to honoring Christ and ended up helping people cross a dangerous river as his service to the Lord.  He once carried a young baby, who turned out to be Jesus, as heavy as the world.  Struggling, he finally made it through the rushing water to the other side.  His story reminds us that as Jesus carries the weight of the world, Christ is carrying me through life.

Tokens – My Mayan pendant

 

IMG_5523 mexico

 

I will continue to share the tokens that I treasure in the order acquired.  Prior to the imperfect pearl came two others.  The first was a Mayan token from Mexico that I had no idea would become the first of a collection.  I love to have reminders of my travels but never want to find room in my luggage.  I’ve found that gathering little tokens provides a reminder requiring little space.

A few years ago, I went on vacation with a longtime friend.  We had held each other up through some tough, emotional times.  We had a lot of fun shopping, traveling, and even had dogs that were best friends.  Life was always an adventure filled with laughter and camaraderie.

This particular trip took us to Mexico.  One day, we visited some ancient Mayan ruins where we climbed partway up a very steep and tall set of steps. Giving up about halfway, we sat and looked out over the jungle that had overgrown remnants of a civilization. We wandered through pockets of the ancient civilization, spread through an overgrown jungle, following paths carved out for tourists.

Upon returning to our hotel, a small silver coin with Mayan symbols caught my eye in the window of the gift shop.  I bought the token and have since worn it on a chain around my neck.  It reminds me of the preciousness of life and how time moves on, leaving whole civilizations behind. It emphasizes that nothing here on earth is forever. It also reminds me of the strength and fragility of friendship as I recall laughing throughout the trip with my friend.  A friend who, like past civilizations, has moved on in life. There are times, when we lose touch with friends, not deliberately or through conflict, but because of life changes.

In contrast, the small, round, Mayan token reminds me of constancy when I think of how God has been there for all civilizations. God’s view is better than ours, and he’s seen everything.  He sees where my life will lead and will be there with me.  God is constancy even as life is not.

060

 

Tokens – My Imperfect Pearl


IMG_5513 pearl

 

I’ve never been into symbolism, but I have slowly gathered meaningful pendants and charms that I wear on a necklace and bracelets. Each has its own story. Today, I’ll start with my South Tahitian pearl. During this past frigid winter that introduced the term “polar vortex” into our lives, I slipped away for a few weeks of warmth. My first stop was Tahiti, where I spent some time in solitude, pondering life. So that is where I’ll begin.

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I sat, alone, on the balcony of a bungalow in Moorea that reached over the water, supported by a foundation of poles that disappeared into the water and sand below. South Pacific — One more check on my bucket list. I fingered the smooth, imperfect pearl on a chain around my neck. Rolling it between my fingers intricately to become familiar with its deviations as I drew parallels to beauty despite the imperfections of life. Wind howled through the South Pacific mountainsides and rushed across the surface of the ocean. It was noisy despite the calm that was displayed.

Palm fronds rustled on the bungalow’s roof and wind touched my face. Salt air rushed across my skin as I took in the wonders of the Pacific. Clouds gathered at the horizon, hovering to mask and shape the brilliant sunset.  Dogs barked in the distance. Birds cawed and warned of the coming night. A rooster crowed, defying the myth of only crowing at daybreak . Headlights, in-congruent with the remoteness of the surroundings, popped in and out of view as cars circled the island on a road with ocean on one side and a rapidly rising mountain on its other.

Ocean water flowed quickly as the peaceful depths hid fish in the coming night. Two large sting rays glided by gracefully, their lovely gray fins floating through the water. Fish scattered as two sharks approached, circling in a deceptively calm nature, their soft gray color illuminated by a light under the deck. Night-time was almost upon me – the girl with the imperfect Tahitian pearl on a chain around her neck. The girl whose life had been ingrained with a thirst for travel despite many odds.

The surface of the pearl became more and more familiar even as the foreign feel of Pacific air, sounds, and fading light enticed my senses. Twinkling lights of civilization betrayed the remoteness of a vast ocean and isolated island. Mountains jutted high in the sky, contrasting with the flatness of a seemingly endless ocean. The water’s surface varied from still to rippled, with no visible logic for the difference in movement. Pockets of floating sea weed were pulled gently by the tide. The jagged yet flowing beauty of my surroundings reminded me of the intricacies of life and its ups and downs.

The value of a South Pacific pearl is measured by its roundness, size and darkness in color. The world gives a monetary value to the pearl based on these criteria. I had gone into the store and asked to see the cheapest pearl in the store. Not the huge and long strands in the window. Not the pearls intricately surrounded by diamonds. The clerk, after resigning herself to the fact that mine would not be a large purchase, pulled a tray of pearls from deep within a drawer. On it were the imperfect and undesirable pearls.

In several shades of grey, various shapes, ridged or oblong, the tray looked sad compared to the beautiful jewelry that filled the store. I looked in the top left corner of the tray at the cheapest pearl in the store. That was the one I wanted. It was beautiful in my eyes. Medium gray, ridged at the top with a polished shine. Taken out of the environment of competition in the store, it now lives gracefully on my travel necklace, sharing top billing with treasures from abroad. I love it.

God loves each of us too. Based on His criteria, not ours. He reaches deep into the folds of his sheep to love the imperfect, specifically those who feel undeserving. He reaches past the seemingly perfect sheep to touch those with feelings of unworthiness in their hearts and minds. He sees beauty in each and every sheep in his flock.

I sat outside the bungalow and fingered my new pearl that, to me, represented hardship that brought beauty. It began as an irritant in a living oyster, possible as small as a grain of sand. The oyster learned to live with it by laying shell material until the pearl became tolerable and smooth. It represented faith that God carries me through rough waters, smoothing my rough edges as needed. I looked at the beauty of the tiny corner of the world that I was in and felt the love of God, and relaxed deeply into my surroundings.