What’s on Your Wall? Signs, Mottoes, and more

Facebook asks boldly, “Do you want to post this on your wall?” meaning do you want this information available to your Facebook friends? Obviously, walls in the 1950s were not electronic. The only walls we knew then were made of plaster. But more on that later!

Longenecker Homestead in the family for five generations
Longenecker Homestead in the family for five generations

The John Longenecker homestead sits just across the road from Bossler Mennonite Church. The scene is bucolic, farms and land extending as far as the eye can see in this quiet niche of western Lancaster County. Poles that once attached electrical wiring to this house are gone, so I assume a plainer family, probably Amish, now lives in the house and farms the acreage.

Mailbox2        Mailbox1

Apparently the family is not bashful about proclaiming their convictions, broadcasting from their mailbox on both sides two biblical admonitions, one from John 8:11, words of Jesus to the Samaritan woman.

Usually painted scenes and pretty art adorn the walls of modern homes, but “back in the day” wall hangings we called mottoes were intended to exhort and encourage. Above the door leading from my Grandma’s kitchen to the sitting room is this stern commandment:

HonorFatherMotto

Upstairs in Grandma’s Victorian-style bedroom is a poem with a much softer touch, embroidered for her mother by my aunt, Ruth Longenecker:

My Mother's Garden, an embroidered poem
My Mother’s Garden, an embroidered poem by author Alice E. Allen

In our own home was this fixture from Proverbs 3:6 in the little walkway between our living and dining rooms. There it was from childhood to adulthood imprinting our minds and hearts until it eventually became invisible to us.

AllThyWaysAcknowledgeHim

The wall hanging that made the biggest impression on me was Rudyard Kipling’s “If, for Men” adapted into an the idealized version for women or girls. I never tried to memorize the whole poem, but the words “If you can hear the whispering about you . . . ” keep chiming in my mind even now:

IF – for Girls

If you can hear the whispering about you

And never yield to deal in whispers, too;

If you can bravely smile when loved ones doubt you

And never doubt, in turn, what loved ones do;

If you can keep a sweet and gentle spirit

In spite of fame or fortune, rank or place,

And though you win your goal or only near it,

Can win with poise or lose with equal grace;

If you can meet with Unbelief, believing,

And hallow in your heart, a simple creed,

If you can meet Deception, undeceiving,

And learn to look to God for all you need;

If you can be what girls should be to mothers:

Chums in joy and comrades in distress,

And be unto others as you’d have the others

Be unto you – – no more, and yet no less;

If you can keep within your heart the power

To say that firm, unconquerable “No,”

If you can brave a present shadowed hour

Rather than yield to build a future woe;

If you can love, yet not let loving master,

But keep yourself within your own self’s clasp,

And not let Dreaming lead you to disaster

Nor Pity’s fascination loose your grasp;

If you can lock your heart on confidences

Nor ever needlessly in turn confide;

If you can put behind you all pretenses

Of mock humility or foolish pride;

If you can keep the simple, homely virtue

Of walking right with God – – then have no fear

That anything in all the world can hurt you – –

And – – which is more – – you’ll be a Woman, dear.

by Elizabeth Lincoln Otis

We want to know. What was/is hanging on the walls of your home, past or present?

By the way, it’s not too late to enter the book giveaway contest for a chance to win a copy of Valerie Weaver-Zercher’s book The Thrill of the Chaste: The Allure of Amish Romance Novels.

Click HERE to post a comment and a chance to win. The contest closes on Saturday, November 9, 2013 at noon. Only comments logged into this website can be honored. The winner will be announced here on this blog and in an email.

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30 thoughts on “What’s on Your Wall? Signs, Mottoes, and more

  1. “Only one life, t’will soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

    “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.”

    Two mottoes from our house.

    Another sign that tugged on my heart. I passed a farm in Indiana on my commute between Goshen and Valparaiso that said, “Come home, son.”

    Thanks for this reminder of how piety and art came together in the Mennonite aesthetics of my youth! This is a good topic that answers one of the questions I had as I wrote my memoir: “how did my family and my church teach kindness?”

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    1. You gave me cause for pause with “Come home, son.” I wonder what would be the effect of many families following suit with such a call to their prodigals, son or daughter.

      As I write this, I remember a phrase from another motto hanging in my Uncle Leroy and Aunt Clara’s dining room wall: “Christ is the unseen guest at every meal. . . . ” I’m sure you have seen this one too.

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  2. We have the serenity prayer on our wall. I reminds us that there are somethings we can change and some things we are powerless over, and some things we just need to understand the difference in and accept what we cannot change. Since we recognize that we are both control freaks in many ways, it comes in quite useful every day.

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    1. My mother started embroidery projects with the serenity prayer for all 7 of her
      grandchildren, but because of her failing eyesight she never finished them. Now she has a sun-catcher with the same inscription hanging from one of her kitchen windows. As to your last comment, I guess we are all control freaks to some extent. Thanks, SK!

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  3. A sampler a sister-in-law stitched for me:

    Rich and Mary Jane
    Ray and Mary
    Ken and Charlene
    Jim and Valerie
    John and Linda
    Bill and Lois
    Russell and Gladys
    Dale and Kathy
    Paul and Lydia
    John and Barb
    Slept Here
    September 1986-July 1987

    And on our study wall:

    In proportion as a man simplifies his life,
    solitude will not be solitude,
    nor poverty poverty,
    nor weakness weakness.
    Henry David Thoreau

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  4. It is interesting how most of us are much lower key with posting our faith on our walls, or wearing them on our foreheads, as we’re told to do in the Bible. 🙂 In my home today, someone once gave me a country-decor-style series of 5 wooden pieces linked together that spell simply F-A-I-T-H in a vertical hanging. I liked that simplicity, so I hung it. A good topic for a blog post! Thanks.

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  5. I enjoy again your writings, Marian. It is good to talk about memories. I do not remember the complete poem, but I do remember my Grandma’s wall hanging, something like “said the robin to the sparrow..” It ended with the thought that God cares for you and me.

    I’m wondering if the road sign was posted by conservative Mennonites. They seem to appear at many homes where the people who live there belong to a more conservative group.

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    1. Thanks for the one about the robin and sparrow; I remember that one too but would have to do a Google search to get the wording verbatim.

      You are probably right about the signs posted close to Bossler Road. Who knows what has come of that reminder to passersby.

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  6. “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
    and
    “I was glad when they said unto me, ‘let us go into the house of the Lord.'”

    These are two mottoes from my childhood, which originate in the Old Testament., Joshua 24:15, Psalm 122:1

    I love hearing the varieties of mottoes, and thinking of their role in a ‘plain’ house, or any house. Mottoes were our quiet ‘televisions.’

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    1. Your first quote has been adapted to spaces outside the house like door mats and plaques. Your comment that mottoes were our quiet televisions is choice, Dolores, and they were always G rated too!

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  7. Well, Marian, you hooked me! I don’t gamble but I am leaving this comment in the hope of winning a copy of Valerie’s book. The topic also lured me. I remember a motto on the wall of our home and I can retrieve only part of it. You mentioned it earlier and perhaps someone can help fill in the blanks. It goes like this (and one of the lines is missing, I think):
    Christ is the head of this home
    The unseen guest at every meal
    The silent listener to every conversation.

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  8. What a gorgeous post, Marian. Love the photos and poems. My childhood home was not pious, although it was kind and loving. The images on the walls didn’t hold lessons. I most remember a large portrait from 1896 that still hangs on my bedroom wall. It’s of my adorable great aunt Eliza who was killed in a hurricane that went through her school when she was six. The photo was taken just months before her death. My house and my son’s home have many many photos taken by my late husband Vic on our trips to India and Taiwan and the desert. He took beautiful portraits, favoring children with their mothers. He also took beautiful landscape portraits of trees, animals, and flowers. The images on my walls surround me with memories of our time together and the love he gave to the world and me. And someday I’ll hand all of them to my sons.

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    1. Precious memories, how they linger, I must say. And you prove they come alive on walls in your house too. What a loving gift your husband gave you, what a legacy too as heirlooms for your sons. Such a heart-warming response, Elaine. Thank you!

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  9. I have the Ten Commandments posted in my breakfast nook. Our church gave each family two copies many years ago to use or display any way we chose. Comments have been interesting. Above the outside door reads an old Shaker saying, “We make You kindly Welcome.” Noticed and commented on by two young ladies with another denomination who rang my doorbell last night. Never know how truth and kindness will reach a heart. Thank you Marian for your thought provoking insights and discussions. Love it.

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  10. I once cross-stitched the poem “Footprints” for a friend who was undergoing a challenging season. Otherwise, my home has art from around the world that represents different memories. I have my favorite verses posted on my fridge, but those are scrawled in my nearly illegible handwriting 🙂

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    1. Yes, they were like a quiet radio. I’d love to hear an example of “funny” in your case. Most of what was hanging on our walls would be classified as “pious.” Thanks for posting, Melinda.

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  11. I wanted to sheepishly offer a correction: while Elizabeth Lincoln Otis did write the most famously recognized reinterpretation of “An ‘If’ For Girls,” the one you have printed is not hers. There were MANY nice spin-offs of Rudyard Kipling’s “If” targeting girls, and it can get confusing sorting through them all because most do not have a known author.

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    1. Thank you for the correction here, Lisa. I am very interested in accuracy, especially when it comes to attribution. Probably internet sources add to the muddle. Do you know the author of this particular parody? Perhaps this one of those Author Unknowns.

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  12. Here’s her version:
    An “If” for Girls

    BY ELIZABETH LINCOLN OTIS
    (With apologies to Mr. Rudyard Kipling)

    If you can dress to make yourself attractive,
    Yet not make puffs and curls your chief delight;
    If you can swim and row, be strong and active,
    But of the gentler graces lose not sight;
    If you can dance without a craze for dancing,
    Play without giving play too strong a hold,
    Enjoy the love of friends without romancing,
    Care for the weak, the friendless and the old;

    If you can master French and Greek and Latin,
    And not acquire, as well, a priggish mien,
    If you can feel the touch of silk and satin
    Without despising calico and jean;
    If you can ply a saw and use a hammer,
    Can do a man’s work when the need occurs,
    Can sing when asked, without excuse or stammer,
    Can rise above unfriendly snubs and slurs;
    If you can make good bread as well as fudges,
    Can sew with skill and have an eye for dust,
    If you can be a friend and hold no grudges,
    A girl whom all will love because they must;

    If sometime you should meet and love another
    And make a home with faith and peace enshrined,
    And you its soul—a loyal wife and mother—
    You’ll work out pretty nearly to my mind
    The plan that’s been developed through the ages,
    And win the best that life can have in store,
    You’ll be, my girl, the model for the sages—
    A woman whom the world will bow before.

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  13. I love this, especially the phrase “the model for the sages,” a good balance. Thanks for posting here. I hope you’ll read some more and comment as you wish. I’d like to get to know you better. Thanks, Lisa!

    Like

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