Sunday, December 26, 2010

Better Living Through Icons

Much of the Thanksgiving-to-Christmas break has been spent nursing a Herxheimer Reaction.  This is new lingo to me..... basically, it is a response to antibiotics killing Lyme spirochetes.  The dead bugs give off toxins that make you feel worse than you did as you get better.  Maybe I'll search for some spiritual meaning there later, but right now, I'm just plain annoyed with the entire process and hoping that this too shall pass.

This exile of rest has given me a lot of time to contemplate some of my many ruminations.  We enter a new season this year... JSB finally discharged from the hospital after nearly a year in involuntary commitment and in his new apartment; Pony Girl with a solid semester of college under her belt, ventured to a State to the South with a male friend for the holidays.  The holiday was quiet except for my rattling cough.

Okay!  An opportunity to pay some serious attention to my inner life -- which lately has been as neglected as the mountain of laundry in my closet.  What percolated to the surface of my consciousness during my contemplation was my icons; and, a suggestion that I consider them and look for that golden tapestry thread of meaning interweaving them.  Then, somehow apply this message to what is going on in my own life right now.

So, that's just what I did.  My first icon was this icon of Christ -- "Not Made By Hands,"  an icon of healing.  An icon of the incarnation of Christ.

The healing nature of this icon struck me during the period that I was working on it.  Not only was I in some serious prayer for healing for my son, but I was about to learn that I would soon be in need of physical  healing as well.  Not only that, but I was called to a ministry of healing through prayer and the laying on of hands.  What strikes me right now is the incarnation -- God has taken on human flesh.  I imagine this co-mingling of divine/human "matter" at the microscopic cell level.  So many places I could go with just that image.
My second icon -- Angel With Golden Hair.  Commonly referred to as Gabriel (but, as my teacher tells me, it could be Michael, too).

I am in love with him (actually, angels are androgynous and do not have gender, but whatever).  This Gabriel looks like a man in one of my dreams. Not a romantic dream, but he was very good looking.  It was a nightmare about losing JSB in the ocean during a Perfect Storm.  He just looked at me intently with the expression here and somehow I knew that everything was going to be okay.  He was also pretty illuminated in my dream.  So, I've decided to just call it a visitation. Could be my subconscious, but it was my dream and that's the story to which I will stick. 

There are so many things that pull me into this icon... The first is the golden hair.  In iconography gold symbolizes divine light.  So, this Golden-Haired Archangel is just glowing with Divine light.  The locks of hair are golden curls woven with more conventional brown hair.  Like the incarnation, it's this mingling or mixing of the divine with the more mundane and earthly.  This angel is a messenger of God.  The "ribbon-looking things" are actually receptors or antennae allowing the angel to hear direct instructions from God.  No discernment necessary, no wondering if this is a call, but simply marching orders.  God speaks, Gabriel follows directions.  The angel is an intermediary between heaven and earth - and after scaring the humans a bit - brings news that God wants the listener to hear.

Guess what, Mary?  Hey, Joseph, you know your fiancee?  I realize Gabriel still is bouncing between heaven and earth, following God's directions.  But, do we pay any attention?

This brings me to my latest icon, The Annunciation.  I've just started to trace this icon on the vellum paper in order to later transfer it to the gesso board.
Here we get to see Gabriel in action.  He has come to tell Mary that she is going to be the Christ Bearer.  Gabriel interrupts this ordinary girl from the ordinary task of sewing.  From that moment on, everything will change.  It's hard to see in the picture, but there is a heavenly beam descending toward Mary.  The Holy Spirit is coming upon her and here we have the beginning of the Incarnation.
There is so much to love in this story.  Mary's faith and trust prompted her to say, "Yes."  We know the story, we know what she endured as an earthly mother of a Heaven-sent Son.  

The recurring theme that speaks to me right now is the balance and interplay of that which is divine and that which is earthly.  As someone who approaches spirituality with a mystic heart, I appreciate and cherish those moments when I am aware of the presence of the sacred.  When I am certain that the Holy One is right there descending from heaven and resting with me.

I am grateful to be reminded that in the midst of this brown and ordinary life, there is a golden, heavenly thread reaching from heaven and enmeshing itself within my life.  Unlike Gabriel, I have no angelic receptors to receive marching orders.  Unlike Mary, I'm pretty sure my Angelic Visitation was a dream. What I believe this tells me is that I need to stop, be still, and rest knowing that the divine is all around me if only I seek it.  Seek it.

Maybe that was my Christmas Gift.  Enforced stillness and heavenly arranged solitude.

Friday, December 24, 2010


I haven't written for more than six months.  During the sweltering melt of this past summer, I discovered that I was host to new visitors.  Gosh, guess I had been ignoring these guests; eating me out of house and home and sapping me all my strength and energy.

A mother-in-law, you ask?  No, she would be a delightful visitor.  It's tiny little creatures making themselves too much at home in my system.  Lyme Disease?  Really?  Wow.  And what the heck is Babesia, anyway?  Apparently, I have been hosting spirochetes and protozoa unbeknownst to me for several years.  They have been sucking away for quite some time.. wreaking havoc and throwing my system all akilter.

So now I know.  In addition to being parent of a child with severe mental illness, parent of the sibling of a child with severe mental illness, I am now host to microscopic visitors who seek to dismantle my immune system and send me into all kinds of tithers.  Forgive me if I do not extend a welcome.  Get the hell out.

Here's the shift with which I struggle.  Years and years of parenting a child with a hideous illness.  My husband and I stood by and watched as the schizophrenia flourished and our son diminished. I spent years working with mental health professionals to help me come to terms with that.  Help me help my daughter work through it.  It was always about someone else.  Never, ever, was I the patient.

So, now I am a patient with a chronic illness.  I have so very much to learn.  It was always for my children that I would beg God.  Heal, protect, cover.  Now it's me. I am surprised that I struggle with that concept.  Yet I do.

God, on this eve of the birth of my Savior, I find myself getting ready to beg.
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