“The truth is the truth, no matter the container.”
Jeannie McCabe, spiritual mentor, Fort Smith, Arkansas
“The truth is the truth, no matter the container.”
Jeannie McCabe, spiritual mentor, Fort Smith, Arkansas
As I have stated in previous posts, I have witnessed several miracles. Not only the everyday graces but the major full-blown not-scientifically-verifiable kind.
Continuing with our Greek definitions to amplify our knowledge of truth by going to the source of the word miracle, you can click here to read about the different kinds, according to Biblical sleuth Peggy Overstreet: “There are four primary Greek words translated as miracle: works(ergon), wonders (teras), powers (dunamis), and signs (semeion). These various terms are used because no single term can possibly exhaust all the significance of a miracle. These words do not depict different kinds of miracles. They portray the miracles from different perspectives.”
Eighteen years ago today one of my favorite miracles was born. A dear friend was informed during her first trimester of pregnancy that something was “terribly wrong” with the fetus. The doctors did not know exactly what, only that it was a massive genetic glitch. Learning disabilities were thrown out as a distinct possibility. Body parts might be missing. Out of respect for The Miracle That Is, I will refrain from going into further details. You get the picture. Cue months of agonizing waiting during which many people all over the globe prayed that baby up.
I was forced to examine pretty much all of my beliefs during this period, to hold them up to the light like one does a crystal wineglass, examining it for dings along the rim or unsightly soap spots.
I am happy to report that the baby came out happy, healthy, whole, and intact. He scored an 800 on his math SAT. No mental slouch is he. Congenial to a fault, he cracks up his mother when he exhibits even a scosch of teen spirt. His very presence makes us REJOICE.
My truth for today is that the power of prayer actually works. Magical, mystical, miraculous changes happened in that womb, out of our purview and control. What to do when the power of prayer does not bring us our desired result? Good question. Persistence in prayer is one answer. Acceptance of the reality/truth of the situation is another. Bottom line: each circumstance presents one with an opportunity for growth. This is either a beautiful or a painful truth. The latter just sucks. But somewhere, inside that utter suckiness, there is the knowledge that maybe, just maybe, something so outrageously beautiful will be born, even if all it is is an expanded sense of compassion for your neighbor, a feeling you were not sure your heart was even capable of feeling.
Hot tip for today: Download/stream the musical experience Anthem by the artist Emancipator. It just sounds like the truth.
“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
What is unarmed truth and what does it look like? Literal or metaphysical? I think the final word is love. It was also the first word. But I am not sure about unarmed truth (see below). Someone please explain!
Ephesians 6:10 – 7 says:
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For our[a] struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. 15 As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. 16 With all of these,[b]take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Get your word ON. Do you have one or two for 2018?
The New York Times asked the following questions regarding the recent unveiling of President and First Lady Obama’s official portraits in the National Gallery of Arts:
“What did the portraits mean to you, particularly if you are African-American or of African descent? Did their aesthetic remind you of other artwork and what did you think of Mr. Wiley and Ms. Sherald’s approach to bucking tradition? What do you think the artists were trying to convey — and do you think they were successful? Did they capture the Obamas and their legacy accurately?”
Before I give you my answers – and I am interested in hearing yours – here are my own questions to the Beautiful People: What is the objective of a portrait – to tell the truth or to obscure it? Is truth a quality you would want to see in your own official portrait? Who would you select to paint yours?
Here are my answers (I read none of the comments on the NYT article):
Happy Presidents’ Day Weekend! I am off to see Thing 3! The posts will be short and I apologize for the lack of photos – I need a kid to help me upload the visuals. XOXO
On Friday I had the pleasure of dining with Mr. Herman Mehling, with members of his family and mine, at the St. Augustine restaurant The Ice Plant. Unbeknownst to me, it was his 94th birthday. I have never shared a birthday with a 94 year old before so this was quite special. I had been wanting to meet him for a long time.
Herman, a.k.a. “The Jesus Man” is the father-in-law of my former Nordstrom Menswear salesman Bruce from Columbus, Ohio. How, you ask, are you having lunch with your former Nordstrom salesman, his wife, and her father? That is a story for another day. Before our “tribulations” he and his wife Judi stayed at our Florida cottage when they visited Herman on several occasions. During the last few years of my crazy life, Bruce called to check in every few months, even after he left Nordstrom. Sometimes I could not return his calls as I was in the throes of a crisis; no matter, he did not stop trying. Now that I am living in the Florida cottage with four animals and a teenager, hosting Bruce and Judi was not an option, so lunch it was.
A few years ago, as a gift for sharing our home, Bruce and Judi gave me one of Herman’s Jesus signs. This is what the sign looks like up close:
This is what the sign looks like from a distance:
Bruce and Judi, who also visited with my parents and in-laws, also gave each family one of these signs. It was this sign that greeted me at the dermatologist’s office on Valentine’s Day, the one month anniversary of my mother’s passing. When my mother died, my youngest sister, MCV asked how she could get her hands on one of those signs. My parents’ sign sits on a roll top desk by the front door, monitoring the comings and goings of all. I called Bruce and he personally delivered two (one for each sister) to my snowy back porch in Ohio. (Polly Positive whisked them inside and I eventually mailed them on).
Back to Herman. You can watch an interview of him here.
As mentioned in the interview, Herman had several careers: Police officer in the Bronx, firefighter, sheet metal machinist. As a police officer, Herman delivered two babies. It is evident that Herman is good with his hands. At age 92, Herman developed “the tremors” in his right hand. This has not stopped him from producing four signs a day, the production of which is a story in itself.
Today, since it is Memorial Day, we honor the part of Herman’s life path that was a sheet metal repairman in the U.S. Navy during World War Two in the Pacific Theater. Assigned to a repair ship, he and his fellow sailors stayed behind the lines and repaired ships damaged in battle, preparing them to go back in. One day, as Herman was on the deck of his ship, the small ship next to him exploded, killing all fifty US sailors aboard. The Navy does not know what caused the explosion: A mini Japanese submarine, an internal situation, who knows? A mystery in the line of combat. Herman did not die in combat but he watched others who did and it those young men on that ship that we honor today.
Bruce, Judi, and Herman brought me two more Jesus signs on Friday. One is sitting in our Florida cottage – our original one is either in Arkansas or in storage in Ohio. The other is being sent to a former policeman in Washington who is suffering from cancer. I had the temerity to ask for more and they gave me three more from the stash in the trunk of their car. Even Urban Meyer has one in his home. I had not yet seen the interview wherein Herman states he would like his children to pass them out to those who attend his funeral. If that is the case, Herman cannot stop making Jesus signs for a long time. It will be a big party. His 95th is already inked in on my calendar. If you NEED one of Herman’s signs, I will inquire however, as to their availability. They are not for sale – they are freely given.
In closing, I leave you with the words from verse 2 of hymn 719 in the Book of Common Prayer. Written by Katherine Lee Bates, O Beautiful for Spacious Skies, the music is set to Materna by Samuel Augustus Ward:
“O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife
who more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life!
America! America! God mend thine every flaw,
confirm thy soul in self-control, thy liberty in law!”
So today, fly your flag in honor of the fallen, cherish your liberty, enjoy a meal with your family, friend, or stranger, and give thanks that although flawed, America is still beautiful thanks to those who gave their lives for us.
HAPPY, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MOODRINGMOMMA, FAVORITE CHILD OF THE RADISH, AND HER SON-IN-LAW, UNCA DUNC. REJOICE! On her first birthday, I saw MoodRingMomma take her first steps. XOXOXO
It would be nice if the grief journey were over, wouldn’t it? Sadly, this is not the case. In many ways, it is just getting going. We all survived the Easter holiday but it was not the same without our Radish. MCVWasHere and I managed to grill a butterflied leg of lamb, thereby making our mother proud from her heavenly perch. I am pretty sure we screwed it up but it was tasty nonetheless. Severe holiday let down set in on Monday with family returning to The Other Coast. After the shock has worn off, the active MISSING phase begins ninety days in. Man, would Grandmere have delighted in the peas, carrots, and Easter Egg hunt …
Perhaps to prep me for this, a galaxy of friends sent me a gift every day. EVERY DAY OF HOLY WEEK I RECEIVED A GIFT. Surprise! It was not Christmas but it sure felt like it. And to think that this was not coordinated by friends, only two of whom know each other.
On Monday, a box arrived with four wrapped gifts and a note from one of my DF Chicks, MLD, a needlepointing and reading maven. She was also my Heart Surgery Coach. Thinking I would need these gifts later, I hoarded them for Sunday. I confess to feeling through the paper – they felt like books.
On Tuesday, a flat package arrived from Martita, another DF Chick, and Thing 3’s godmother. This I ripped open, thinking it was an Easter card. Instead, it was gorgeous watercolor painting of a bunch of radishes, an article on them, and a long lovely letter of a personal nature on what grief for one’s mother looks like after twenty years. I never met Martita’s mother but I still quote her: “If they [gossips] are talking about you, that means they are giving some other poor soul a rest.” Although Martita and MLD are good friends, I do not think these gifts were a coordinated effort. My sister MCVWasHere also gave me a Glassybaby, a pink “goodness” votive for my burgeoning Radish altar. This was not actually a gift – it was for winning a round of the High Stakes License Plate Game – but since I’d forgotten about it, it still counts!
When Wednesday rolled around, I opened a package from Amazon, thinking Mr. Understanding had ordered yet another guitar instruction video. But lo and behold, it was another book, this one a gift from Ms. Broccoli. Called Designing Your Life – How to Build a Well-Loved, Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, it is a Stanford University design class on how to create a life you actually enjoy living, the perfect gift for a family in flux. Think “encore career”, or for me, middle aged starter career.
After three amazing gifts in three consecutive days, it dawned on me that the Universe was sending me a big fat message of LOVE.
But wait! There’s more! It’s almost embarrassing. Almost. I am just trying to make a point here. Wait for it.
On Thursday, MCV handed me and my father each a gift from her college friend, Michelle. This one makes me cry when writing about it – a beautiful compilation of Sally’s musings, photos, and recipes from her blog CookSallyCook.com. Curated and organized with a table of contents, I was awestruck by this gift. Michelle and Sally had bonded over the ancient grain einkorn. Who knew??? An heirloom, both the grain and the book. Earlier in the day a Jackson & Perkins bulb garden arrived from Dr. Skin. Bloom where you are planted.
Moving on to Good Friday: a hand knitted, lacy, rainbow pastel prayer shawl from MoodRingMomma. I do not know how my sister had the mental band width to create such an intricate gift. I had been using a prayer shawl of Sally’s given to her by the women of the church. It was toasty warm but I confess to finding the colors not to my liking, even thoughI did get in the habit of putting it on. Another heart wrenching heirloom, imbued with tears.
On Saturday, MCV gave me a blue Glassybaby cocktail drinker (“splash”), another premio for winning a second round of The High Stakes License Plate game. My in-laws sent a bento box tower of nuts, which I put in Mr. Understanding’s Easter Basket. Mine, as you can see, was full.
On Easter Sunday, MCV returned to my Children’s Bible Stories, given to me and inscribed by my Grandmarie on Easter, 1971. She also gave me Anne Lamott’s latest and greatest book Hallelujah Anyway.
On Monday, feeling bereft (which is just pitiful), I opened all of MLD’s gifts: semi-cerebral brain candy* and a Mexican angel ornament that doubles as a nativity scene which went directly to the makeshift altar. In the middle of my pity party, I took a nap and while I was dozing, the postman delivered a box of gifts from KT: a key chain with Phillippians 4:4 on it (REJOICE!), a new CD by Olivia Newton John and friends called Liv On, some paper goods from Magnolia, and a favorite hymn printed on pink paper. I actually knew the words.
I still cannot believe it. Can you?
And then today: a signed contract for the sale of our house in Ohio. Cranky me, it seemed like another loss, the closing of yet another chapter. Punto final. Until Thing 2 said to me, “What if it’s an Easter gift?” Indeed. He did not know about all of the other ones …
So what do you think the cosmic message is, sent by a phalanx of Easter angels? Here is my best guess: READ. FEED YOUR SOUL. High brow, low brow, non-fiction, fiction, the Bible in adult and children’s versions. Go to the beach and design your life. Plant seeds. Eat ancient grains and nuts. Drink a cocktail out of a handcrafted colored glass and savor it. Light a candle. Say a prayer for your friends and for the world; wear an heirloom made with love while you do it. SING! OUT LOUD! Frame all those extraordinary radishes and hang them where you can see them every day. Have mercy on dear Anne Lamott and make your peace with her – she’d meet you at the beach and chat with you about Jesus. Miss your mother fiercely but remember she is in The Best Place, hanging out with the Mother of all Mothers, REJOICING. She sent a cadre of love language speaking friends and family to remind you of the power of Resurrection, the unlikely gift of an empty tomb.
*MLD’s book choices to lighten the heart of the Expat Princess:
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Sanders
Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney
Enchanted August by Brenda Bowen
You know that I could not go 40 days without a post about my mother which did not also include Mother Mary. Please indulge me.
Let me remind readers that I am not big C “Catholic”, just little “c”. So perhaps I am a bit misinformed, not having been indoctrinated in the Marian way. This makes it all the more fun for me! Vis a vis Mary, I have no preconceived notions. So please bear with me as I flesh out a recent triptych that unfolded in my grief journey.
As an aside on triptychs: One of my all time favorite museums is the Museu do Oratorio in Ouro Preto, Brazil. Back in the day, baby triptychs were crafted for praying while traveling. Portable, the panel doors swung open to display a central painting, sculpture or other ornate religious objet d’art.
Photo credit: Marie Solange O. via Tripadvisor.
Another famous example of a triptych is Hieronymus Bosch‘s The Garden of Earthly Delights, hanging in The Prado.
The Marian triptych you are going to open, however, is composed of words, photos, and music.
Left Hand Panel:
Throughout my life I have cultivated friendships with seemingly random people, people far flung from the normal parameters of my life. Many times I have encountered these people during shopping experiences. The Virgin Mary got an angel named Gabriel and I get a cortege of Nordstrom salespeople. Sanctified shopping!
Last year I wrote of dear Saba, my Jo Malone saleswoman. We have prayed for each other for several years and give each other little gifts. My gluttonous stash of “pashminas” from Shanghai made its way to Saba in February. Saba always wears black, with a beautiful scarf wrapped around both shoulders. I cannot express what joy it gave me to Kon Mari those gorgeous $5 scarves – they were just waiting to be given to Saba.
Then there was Viking Queen, my betattooed makeup counter girl. I have lost touch with her (she is moving up the Nordstrom corporate ladder) but I still think of her on her birthday.
Finally there is Bruce, who helped Thing 2 and Mr. Understanding in the Men’s Wear department. Neither of my men enjoy shopping for clothing. Long ago, I figured out that enlisting the professional help of others when shopping for clothes is the most cost and time effective. Bruce is in his early to mid seventies and married to a wonderful woman named Judy.
Several years ago, before I even really knew them, Bruce told me that his mother-in-law had passed away and his wife was grief stricken. He mentioned that her parents lived in Florida. It turns out, it is the same town where my parents and in law Understandings live. Bruce and Judy were traveling from the Buckeye state to visit her father for his 90th birthday. I offered up my little cottage in Florida for accommodations. They accepted and enjoyed the birthday party, leaving my house cleaner than it had ever been before. They have used it a few times since, each time leaving a little gift.
One of those gifts is a little sign made of wood, an optical illusion puzzle, that says JESUS, made by Judy’s father. During one of their visits, my parents invited Bruce and Judy over to their house for cocktails and Bruce and Judy brought them one too. It sits on my mother’s roll top desk.
My father and I saw one of those little signs at the dermatologist’s on Valentine’s Day, the one month anniversary of my mother’s passing. It was what my grandmother would call a “love pat” from the Universe, a Godwink, a cosmic kiss. It had to have come from Judy’s father but no one could really tell me. (I did recall making a referral for him a few years ago.) When MCVWasHere was in Florida for my mother’s funeral, she commented on how she would like to have one. Voila! Bruce delivered one for each sister to my house in Ohio. Ask and you shall receive.
On Friday night I made Burmese Easy Grilled Chicken. As I was leafing through the Burma cookbook for a rice recipe, I came across a blurb about Sister Mary living in an obscure region of Myanmar as part of a Maryknoll Sisters mission, treating HIV/AIDs. (The Maryknoll Sisters were started by Sr. Mary Joseph (a.k.a. Mollie) Rogers from Boston.) Naomi Duguid’s books are as much history as they are travelogues and recipes. A Marian apparition under the tutelage of Sally.
This week my father Big Mike received a card from Bruce and Judy. My Nordstrom salesman and his wife were sending my father condolences. Mary-nate on this for yourself. Is anyone in your universe this thoughtful? Bruce no longer works at Nordstrom so there is nothing to gain for him – no commission, nada – just angel wings. Here is the card:
Bruce and Judy had honored my parents with a donation to The Servants of Mary who will say mass for them daily at the Vatican. The Servants of Mary, I discovered, have a national ministry called GriefWork. Bruce and Judy were greatly saddened to hear of Sally’s passing. Oh, and they are coming to visit in May – could they take my father out for a meal?
This is how we are meant to engage with the world. Inviting others out, setting aside ourselves, devoting attention. Mihaly (“Mike”) Csikszenthihalyi writes in his epic book Flow:
“Whether we are in the company of other people or not makes a great difference to the quality of experience. We are biologically programmed to find other human beings the most important objects in the world. Because they can make life either very interesting and fulfilling or utterly miserable, how we manage relations with them makes an enormous difference to our happiness. If we learn to make our relations with others more like flow experiences, our quality of life as a whole is going to be much improved.”
You do not have to be a yogi to go with the flow, my friends.
Right Hand Panel:
This brings me to my final Marian experience of the last two weeks:
Last week I was with Big Mike, Mr. Understanding, and Thing 3 in Gainesville, Florida to visit the Natural History Museum’s Butterfly Rainforest. Afterwards, we went on a hunt for an easily accessible restaurant. Hangry, we finally stopped by Leonardo’s Pizza by the Slice. Although the interior can only be described as grungy (hence off-putting) the food was good. My father declined to eat, sneering at the pizza on display (they warm it up).
At each table was a newsletter called “The Coffee News”. Mainly advertisements for bail bonds, quickie divorces, lawn care, and funeral arrangements, it had a trivia section. In it was the following fun fact: the Mother Mary in Paul McCartney’s song Let It Be was written about his deceased mother, Mary.
According to Thoughtco.com “[I]nspired by a dream the singer had of his deceased mother, Mary, assuring him, amongst the turmoil of the Beatles’ slow breakup, that everything would be all right. ”
I cannot tell you how many times in the past ten days I have heard Let It Be playing in a public place or on the radio. I am still waiting for Mother Sally to appear in my dreams and whisper words of wisdom but perhaps this is not her preferred method of contact.
With this in mind, I will close the triptych up and pack it away for future use.
So please, Nordies, continue to put the Really Beautiful People in a sturdy paper shopping bag and walk around the cash register to hand them to me. Leave your politics on the counter with the triple points; let it be. These kind souls are my take away, no returns necessary. I can see the shape of their hearts – overflowing.