Posts Tagged With: Belarus

Old Letter Two- On Icons

So this letter was written just after the one I shared with you in my last post and also written in response to my friend’s response to it. This one gets “a little out there,” my claim to fame=).

“Yes, you are right mysticism is definitely not the correct word for what we are talking about. I was thinking along the lines of intuition, gut feelings, and dreams. I think God gives you these things and people either don’t trust God or don’t trust themselves to acknowledge these things or they simply don’t hear them because they have their iPod in! I think I meant that the world is so deep, so rich, and that in some ways things are more than they seem. God or His angels are always about waiting, shining, watching, protecting, leading. There is more going on than we notice- like spiritual warfare. And it’s the difference between gasping for a single, predictable, breath, or taking long, deliberate inhales- breathing in richly every blessing and exhaling the demons.

 I’ve gone crazy! Finally! Maybe I’ll become a mad artist after all. Or a farmer. I have a great interest in farming and connecting with the land and purity and authenticity now. So maybe I’ll start with a garden and a brushstroke.

 I started reading a book on icons about two years ago. Never finished it, but what I read was interesting. It was talking about how to approach the icons and speak to them and let their painted eyes bore into your soul, er……..something like that. Orthodox mysticism is beautiful in its own right, the churches, the incense. But there is something trapped inside of those gilded, Greek-cross walls that is less than soothing to the soul. I’m not sure I believe it is evil but more of a great collective sadness. That somehow those mysteriously painted eyes, gold alters, and seductive smoke spirals that waft from swinging brass incense holders all seem like they have been trying to conceal some great secret for so long that the truth they once possibly protected has vaporized and traveled to a less severe environment. The icons want to cry out to the people and tell them that God is no longer there but they cannot shed a single tear because, they are, after all wood and resin and pigment.

 These elemental treasures remain, inanimate, brooding in their own splendor and wishing they could remember the only name that could bring them true redemption. If they could just recall the name of Jesus it would set their golden, jewel-studded cells into flames and bring them back to dust and ash. Maybe then their purged remains could float to Heaven on the breath of God that careens over, under, and through His mighty creation where His Spirit is today, as it has always been, unbound by polished rock and sculpted metal. Wild and essentially free. The Most High God is continually moving throughout time and place in pursuit of liberating His children from certain and eternal death.

 Sorry, you know I get caught up in expressing things sometimes. What I meant by the tangent was that maybe at sometime in history orthodoxy held some semblance of purity. But, knowing what I know about God, I don’t see Him abiding in a place of such secrecy or just plain confusion. I see Him as man-Jesus_ walking through fields and gardens-speaking to men-loving people. I see Him today in the world as an all- powerful force and being that is timeless enough and pertinent enough to reach you wherever you are. Whether he woos you into conversation with Him as you smell fresh cut grass on a morning jog or comforts you as you silently sing Him praises under fluorescent supermarket lights.

Okay- Have no idea what I as talking about or if it will still ring true tomorrow. Fun though.


 I love finding this stuff! So, the reason I became interested in icons in the first place and even attempted reading a book on them was because of the brief experiences I had in Belarus seeing real people interact with these beautiful, strange, often solemn little paintings of Christ and various saints. I was fascinated by the familiarity I saw people approach these icons with and also saddened by the needful fervor with which they were addressed.  Add in the art history classes/interest and there’s your explanation.

Would love to hear some creative and inspired feedback on this one or the previous=)


Categories: Art, Excosmopolitan Theme | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Called To Stay

I like to move, preferably slowly. Walking is bliss.

I’ve always had a wanderlust- a bit of a gypsy spirit.

An old Italian friend of mine used to call me his, “little gypsy head.” Whenever he called me this peculiar nickname he would always follow it with, “but not like these (gesturing rudely toward the street) beggars- no you are like the beautiful old gypsies full of life and mystery.” (These were his words and feelings- I am actually quite interested in the plight of the modern day Gitana- who are also just people who need Jesus.)

When I was in fifth grade my response to the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” was, “A wanderer.” I imagined myself on horseback wearing an ankle length leather trench coat riding slowly over mountainous terrain through heavy cool rain.

I broke up with my very first (elementary school) boyfriend after one day with a note that read as follows:

Dear Billy,

I have to break up with you. I can’t be tied down because my soul is as free as the wind that blows over the rolling prairie grasses.



I’m not joking- I really wrote that! (Too much Laura Ingalls Wilder)

In high school I built a friendship with a foreign exchange student from Austria (Shout out to Lisi- love you!) Almost twelve years later this amazing creative woman is still a dear friend. I have visited her twice at her home in Vienna, and she and her boyfriend were just with us in the Springs last summer.

When choosing colleges I wanted to leave Ohio and attend a university in California. My parents told me I couldn’t go any farther west than Texas. I went to Baylor and married a man from California! (This was a coincidence- not for spite=)).

In early college I traveled to Belarus on two occasions. Belarus is a beautiful country with a lively wit that resonates over the stillness left in the air from years of communist rule. A beautiful friend of mine there is possibly the most vibrant and alive person I have ever met.

I studied in Florence, Italy. I became obsessed with Italy after this experience- I’d wake up in the middle of the night and start searching the web for jobs in Italy. I even found jobs for Aaron in Italy. I’d go into a trance for 48 hours working out a plan on how we would get there and be there- the plans were never fleshed out- sad. Someday. But, I am happy to report I no longer go into to crazy Italy trances.

So it ended up I had to settle for Mexico. (If you asked me now though, I love Mexico right up there with Italy- and on some accounts much more.) I moved to Guadalajara, Mexico with my husband to teach- we lived there two years. Our first daughter, Clara, was born in water, in Mexico.  Mexico made me an adult and a mother.

I miss my days and the people I love there frequently. I often want to go back- two years was nothing! I have many friends still there in their 6th, 7th,8th ,and even 30 something years there! Sometimes I feel like a loser for leaving after only two years. I was just getting passed the new culture shocky-type stage. I wonder what I would have experienced and how much more deeply those experiences would have shaped who I am becoming had I stayed.

We returned to Colorado Springs and bought a house. You know what I thought about that, “great, now we’re stuck.” Which isn’t necessarily true, but for me it feels a bit cumbersome. I think about decorating and improving and creating a beautiful warm place and then I think, “well, it can be beautiful but not too comfortable because then I’ll become attached to it and when a cool opportunity comes I won’t want to seize it because I like my curtains too much.”

Sometimes I just want to go somewhere- anywhere new and foreign. Anywhere where I’d need to carry a map around and finding a place to pee could be considered an adventure.

This is my struggle- the desire to go- the pursuit of the unseen- the search for beauty- the quest for the unknown……………it has at times bordered on pathological (watching a House Hunters International Episode for the 6th time because I’ve seen them all multiple times!)

It isn’t only searching for what I don’t know, but also reaching out and reconnecting with what I do know. I love visiting places I have been before. Seeing the same faces and signs and breathing familiar foreign smells and walking familiar foreign paths is comforting. There is some continuity that is grasped, some whimsy-at-large that comes full circle when the foreign is established as familiar.

All these feelings aside my husband and I are growing some roots here. I think this is healthy and good for our family.

Just two months ago hubby and I were mobilizing for another international move. He was interviewing with international schools and I had begun reading the stack of books I had ordered on Amazon about raising kids in foreign countries and was packing boxes in my head.

Guess what happened? We were invited to stay.

We accepted to invitation. For now I am learning to quench my thirst for far-flung adventure with the challenge of seeing myself as an ex-cosmopolitan (mind games are fun=)). Even here in Colorado Springs, I am a foreigner a sojourner- life here can be strange and uncomfortable, lonely and frustrating, exhilarating and surprising, rich and alive!- just like it was abroad.

I am confident in God’s purposes for grounding me and growing me here- home.

For now, I have been called to stay.

Categories: Excosmopolitan Theme, Travel Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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