Acrylic and oil on masonite.
I don’t have a perfect life, or even my ideal life for that matter, but I am so grateful for all the ways in which I’ve been blessed. I have a job while many of my fellow citizens still do not. It’s a steady job with fantastic co-workers, and though it doesn’t pay much, I’m thankful to be working with people who genuinely care about their co-workers and their clients. My parents are graciously allowing me to live with them rent-free; I recently realized, when going over my finances, that if my parents weren’t letting me live with them, I’d probably be homeless or living in a shelter. I’m so thankful for a family that loves me and supports me and enjoys having me around. I’m grateful for relatively good health, for the generous, funny, and compassionate people of Triple Pointe Church, and for my dear friends, near and far, who continue to maintain relationships with me despite the distance. I’m blessed by a God who continues to love me despite my fickleness.
Now, on to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade and Papa’s slow-roasted turkey, and real mashed potatoes and Nana’s pies and naps and hauling up the Christmas decorations. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. You may not have everything you want, but you probably have everything you need.
You can still wander into many old cathedrals around the world and find a place to light a candle, whether in memory of a loved one or as a prayer. While living in Italy, I made a ritual of lighting a candle for my family each time I went into a different cathedral. I visited my college roommate last spring and when we went to the National Cathedral, where the following photograph was taken, I was struck by how many candles were lit, reflecting how many people were praying or remembering something or someone significant.
A tradition in my dad’s side of the family is to light a candle at the graves of those who have gone before us. My grandfather, in his mid-eighties, still observes this practice, lighting candles at the graves of his parents and brothers as well as his in-laws. He’s always reflectively quiet during this simple ceremony, and I find it so sweet and beautiful. This is a practice I hope to continue someday…
First entrance into ancient duomo
of breath-taking enormity
Black and white pillars reach to heaven
from familiar incense
Massive crowd of sinners and saints
steeped in tradition
a sermon in lyrical tongue
long line for Lent
Kneeling before a priest
receiving my blessing
and a dusting of ashes
In this new place,
this medieval town,
I am part of something greater
A new life
It’s a good thing Christmas comes at the end of the year. It’s usually when everything appears the most dire, when people are worried about making ends meet, and when everyone prepares his or her New Year’s resolutions, probably soon to be broken. Right now, I don’t have a job, or a car, or my own place to live. I don’t have dental insurance or prescription coverage. I have student loans and bills to pay. Things appear quite dire.
However, though frequently pessimistic, I am a person who believes in hope. I think one of the reasons people are so happy during the Christmas season is because of the anticipation, the hope that things are going to get better. I am one who has a great hope that next year will be better. We continue to celebrate Christmas and uphold traditions, even if we have to cut back due to loss and a poor economy.
Hope is a foundation of faith. Without it, we could never muddle through war, death, poverty, hunger, and loneliness. If no one lived with hope, no one would waste time doing anything good. Things are difficult for many people right now, but I have hope that things will come back around. That’s the only way I can survive in a fallen world.
I clearly remember the struggle to breathe, the icy fear that was a heavy weight in my chest. I had assumed that opening my eyes would end the nightmare, but it seemed to be real. The creature was there, between me and the door, so escape was out of the question.
It was, perhaps, four feet in height, with bat-like features. The narrow eyes were terrifying: milky white and softly glowing. Its teeth were all fangs, the better to gnash with, I suppose. It may not have been so frightening if I wasn’t being overwhelmed by the waves of demonic evil radiating from this being. It was immobilizing; I couldn’t move from my bed, even to sit up. I couldn’t make a sound, no scream or cry or prayer could escape. It was lunging at me, but it couldn’t quite reach. Never, ever, have I felt such terror. I was completely alone in a dormitory full of sleeping people.
I could only think, think of great angels with swords and that my soul had already been purchased with His blood and no demon could take that away. The creature lunged at me, furious, fangs gleaming. I squeezed my eyes shut to help focus on the hope I had learned long ago. When I finally gained the courage to open my eyes again, the creature was gone.
The memory, however, will always be there.