Not long after we began our motorhome adventure we discovered that the refrigerator door was going to be a problem. If it was not closed with great awareness and intentionality it would fly open while we were driving down the road. This phenomenon led, no doubt, to the equally disconcerting experience of having either the top or the bottom hinge give way completely whilst accessing the interior…sometimes both. After wrestling with this we learned that two fairly short screws were all that held the door in place and that they were simply coming apart for no apparent reason. My beloved, who is a phenomenal improvisational jazz musician, but who has never been a particularly talented handy-man with fixit skills, went to the hardware store and bought two small “C” clamps (in black no less, to match the hinges) which he used to secure the screws and prevent them from working loose. Brilliant! This worked for months. Then we began to notice random pieces of broken black plastic on the floor of the kitchen, near the refrigerator. We looked everywhere but couldn’t see from whence they’d come. We didn’t save the several inch long sections as it was obvious they were never going to be reattached to anything. Then the bottom hinge failed altogether, even with the little clamp. Note: have you ever paid attention to how often every day you open and close your refrigerator? Count them sometime, just for fun. It’s a lot! Okay. So then getting cold food out of there became a complicated process of supporting the door and finding what one wanted at the same time. It was safer if we did it together, one holding the door and the other getting or replacing food, but that wasn’t always convenient. What emerged was a chronic sense of dread, a readiness for disaster to strike at any moment, a hyper vigilance that is exhausting. Why didn’t they just get it fixed, you might ask. Well, Gil was so proud of his fix with the clamps. And they did work, for a while. So we finally had the RV fixer people order new hinges only to find out that the hinges weren’t the real problem; the bottom of the door frame was breaking apart. That’s where those little plastic pieces came from. So then they ordered us a new door only to discover it wasn’t the right one. Before we moved on to our next destination I got the correct part number and then called other RV fixit people in our new location. We picked up the new door this week and came to visit family where there is a real wizard with all things mechanical who installed it for us yesterday! Problem solved! Finally… So why does my whole body tense up and I hold my breath every time either one of us opens that door? Interesting! The expectation of impending doom has become habituated. As a lifelong metaphysican I can see where this goes, if left unaddressed! I hereby choose to notice and challenge any anticipation of difficulty, disease or disquietude I find rising in my consciousness and replace it with the awareness that all my needs have always been met and calm confidence that they always will be! Einstein reportedly said that the big question to answer is whether or not the universe is friendly. This is, indeed, fundamental to how we live our lives; it is the context within which our entire life story unfolds. “God didn’t bring me this far, just to drop me on my head now!” “There’s got to be a pony here someplace!” “It’s not important whether the glass is half empty or half full; it’s refillable!” Today my lesson is trust. Relaxing, allowing, turning it over is only possible when I first decide that the game is indeed rigged, in my favor! Yours too! Deciding that benevolence is the universal organizing principle is my first, maybe only, job! Today I’m thanking my formerly broken refrigerator door for bringing me back home to a really big, and deliciously good, God!
Juanita Elizabeth and Violet Angela were sisters. Born five years apart, more than a hundred years ago, they knew a very different world from ours today but their relationship was one many of us would recognize. It was complicated: full of love and loathing, loyalty and betrayal, kindnesses and unspeakable cruelty. Both became smart, capable and accomplished women in an age where that didn’t count for a lot. They each married, had families, divorced, had other partners and worked professionally all their lives. Their children, alive still today, can recount the tumultuous stories of their young lives. Their great-grandchildren, fortunately, can’t even imagine behaving similarly.
I, daughter to Juanita and Angela’s niece, watch my granddaughters today. They were born in this century. They too are about five years apart, and although they have different fathers, they are as close as any sisters could hope to be. I have never seen either one be consciously mean to the other. I have witnessed disagreement, even exasperation, but never violence between them. They seem to genuinely like each other and find their differences intriguing rather than annoying. I love to listen to them from another room, discussing all manner of things, giggling uncontrollably or even sitting, reading, in companionable silence. I think then of my relationship with my sisters.
There were four of us; between us we had one Dad and two Moms. The two oldest have passed on in the last couple of years. They were enough older than the youngest and me that we didn’t grow up together, but we claimed each other as siblings and I mourn their loss even though I really don’t think I ever knew them very well. And now there are two. One on each coast. Years pass between visits. Letters and phone calls don’t happen anymore. Emails and texts suffice. We’re not even “friends” on Facebook. Our memories of our childhood differ so widely, you’d think we were in alternate universes instead of the same house. Our lives since growing up have been similar, but different. Different tragedies, struggles, successes, but interestingly similar epiphanies. We both seem to have come to a place of gentle self care and a distant benevolence toward each other. It’s okay I guess, but I always wanted to be a sister.
“Come To The Manger” is a Christmas song written by my dear friend, colleague, mentor and first piano teacher the Reverend Doctor Lois Ruth Bartel. Over the years I sang her song at quite a few Christmas Eve Candlelight Services at our church, both accompanied by various wonderful pianists and once, terrifyingly, a cappella when our musician couldn’t make it through the snowstorm! It’s haunting melody and message fill me still with the wonder, mystery and magic of this sacred time. I share it with you this Christmas morn, before the sun even rises on a brand new day, hoping it finds your heart as open and filled with love as mine is for you … ❤️
Come, come to the manger
See the sweet infant there,
See the beautiful lady
Watch with loving care.
Come, come with the humble
Hear the choirs above,
There, yes there in the manger
Is found the only true love.
Have you searched and searched the world around
And never found true peace?
The come, come, come to the manger
Or your search will never cease.
Where, where is that manger?
Where, oh where do you start?
You can find it your own way:
Just say a prayer with your heart.