Lutherans in the Twin Cities

Bead attitudes

A ministry of making necklaces and offering hope in the midst of crisis

Had a crisis? Maybe Strands of Hope LLC can help. What it offers isn’t much at first glance. A necklace. Yet it’s made by someone who may understand. Family. Friend. Even by a stranger. But someone offering emotional support.

That kind of a gesture can mean a lot. And who doesn’t have crises?

Strands of Hope is a business established by four breast-cancer survivors who all love to create necklaces and other accessories out of beads. The idea emerged from their monthly meetings for coffee and support: Why not start a business that helps others meet for beading in a way that provides hope and comfort for anybody in crisis?

That was five years ago. Participants in Strands of Hope events now have created and given away an estimated 2,400 necklaces. Event settings include churches, Girl Scout meetings, mission trips to Cuba and Guatemala, and a support group for victims of domestic abuse.

Strands of Hope co-founder Connie Marty, standing center, instructs a group of beaders as they create necklaces at St. Michael's Lutheran Church in Roseville, Minnesota, in early October. Photo provided by Strands of Hope LLC

Strands of Hope is a business established by four breast-cancer survivors who all love to create necklaces and other accessories out of beads.

“My journey was breast cancer,” explains co-founder Connie Marty, but now her mission is “to broader events — creating necklaces, connecting hearts, building hope.”

Two hearts

Marty, who has survived more than 12 years since her cancer diagnosis, is the wife of state Sen. John Marty and the daughter-in-law of the prominent religion scholar Martin Marty. The other founders are Joy Throm, Pat Nyman, and Renee Macomber. Marty, of Roseville, is a member at Mount Olive Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Minneapolis; Throm, a member at First Universalist Church in Minneapolis, lives in Minneapolis; Macomber, a member at Plymouth Congregational Church in Minneapolis, lives in Hopkins; and Nyman, a member at Incarnation Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Shoreview, where she lives.

Necklaces feature two hearts intertwined in a gesture of supporting each other, as well as glass beads, stones, or pearls. A “random bead” in each necklace bespeaks the unpredictability of lives. Where to place the random bead on the string is the choice of the creator.

When Throm lost a cousin to cancer, she created necklaces for her surviving mother and sister, one for another surviving cousin — and one for herself. The necklaces were a color that Throm thought each recipient would like, but each necklace had the same random bead. The gift, writes Throm in an email, honors the late cousin and symbolizes “the love, support, and connection uniting the family.”

“The grandma told me later that she wanted this child to know that cancer was more than just the two of them. It was more than going to the doctor’s office or hospital or getting sick.”

The Strands of Hope website quotes an unnamed necklace creator who describes the meaning of the entwined hearts. “At times my sister holds me up and then at other times I hold her up,” she writes. “I will keep this necklace and make another one for my sister so we can both wear them.”

Another Strands of Hope moment occurred when a woman brought her five-year-old granddaughter to a beading session. The child’s eyes widened as beaders shared their stories. She said, “Grandma, it’s not just you and me who are cancer survivors but all these people around the table?”

Marty adds in an email: “The grandma told me later that she wanted this child to know that cancer was more than just the two of them. It was more than going to the doctor’s office or hospital or getting sick.”

When churches and other groups host necklace-making events, participants are asked to buy a kit for $18. A share of the proceeds goes to charity, says Marty. Strands of Hope is a business, but she says cofounders work as volunteers and the business has not turned a profit.

Strands of Hope seeks to "create necklaces, cnnect hearts, and build hope" for those experiencing illness.

A necklace-making event is scheduled at Christ Church Lutheran at 3244 34th Avenue South in Minneapolis on Monday, November 11 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. It is open to all, no previous beading experience necessary. Instructor and tools are provided, as well as snacks.

‘Unpredictable bead’

Pastor Leesa Soderlind of St. Michael’s Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Roseville isn’t a breast-cancer survivor herself but knows some. Moreover, she knows many people who have experienced “unpredictable crises in their lives.” So Soderlind joined the beaders at her church October 1.

Her favorite part of the necklace is “the unpredictable stone,” says Soderlind. “It represents the rocky road for all us of us.”

In breast cancer, she adds, “the unknown is always the scariest piece.” Women ask her, “Will somebody be present with me, not necessarily to tell me that everything is going to turn out okay, but to listen?” At such times, says Soderlind, women fighting cancer tell her, “l don’t want to be alone and I don’t want to be scared of the unknown.”

The necklaces’ linked hearts address that. “We’re all connected to all people,” says Soderlind, “and, most importantly, we’re all connected to God.”

Of course, the unpredictable always remains in any crisis. God doesn’t promise to take it away. “What God promises,” adds Soderlind, “is to be there with you in it.”

For more information, visit the Strands of Hope website at www.strandsofhope.com. For details about the November 11 necklace-making event at Christ Church Lutheran, contact Mary Bode at 612/721-6611. No previous jewelry-making experience is needed to attend.

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