Saturday, September 5, 2009

i think this all connects. i promise.

two years ago, exactly (as in, we hopped on our extremely crowded and stuffy plane 2 years ago on this very date), matt and i went to italy for a month. you can see snippets here and here

i mean, really- a month in italy? how could it not be amazing and fabulous!? i was about 2 months pregnant with little m, so aside from a great deal of 24/7 nausea and abstaining from caffeine and italian wine, it was truly an incredible time to look at art, eat good food, dip our toes in the mediterranean, and explore a foreign country together. 

one of the museums we went to in florence, Museo Nazionale di San Marco, is located in a former convent and church. we were able to go upstairs into the cells, or rooms, in which the monks lived and spent their days praying. fra angelico, an early renaissance painter and monk, lived at san marco; in addition to the large scale paintings and frescoes that he painted in the san marco chapel and other religious sites throughout italy, he painted frescoes depicting the life of christ in each of the monk's small cells. (picture a very small dorm room.) 

the paintings in these small rooms are unlike much of the religious art of the time. even religious art at this point was sponsored by wealthy patrons (in this monastery the medici family), so the works usually had subtle references to how amazing, wealthy, or powerful the sponsoring person was. (think about how in movies, tv shows, sporting events today companies use product placement, sponsorship or product tie-ins to advertise themselves) the frescoes in these private rooms are quite subdued and humble, as their purpose was devotional in nature. 

i was pretty awed when we visited at how beautiful these hidden rooms were. i imagined fra angelico painting these scenes slowly, reverently and methodically, believing he was called by god to be a painter. his job as a monk was to paint. incredible. i thought of how hundreds of years ago, these monks would have memorized every line and mark in these frescoes as they meditated and prayed daily in the same private space. i wondered if at times as the monks grew lonely or discouraged if these frescoes were a reminder of who they had devoted their lives to serving, or a visual reminder that the savior they followed and the saints that had preceded them had endured hardness and the long journey of faith. 

matt is reading a book about saints, prophets and martyrs, and was reading aloud to me an excerpt from the chapter on ignatious loyola. loyola, who started the jesuits, encountered many disappointments in his faith journey, and his concluding prayer in his spiritual exercises spoke to matt in a way that those frescoes spoke to me, and likely to those monks that prayed before them every day. 

those frescoes were a visual reminder that for me personally, as a follower of jesus, that i have a history; there are people of faith who have walked this road of life trying to follow the teachings of christ. they, too, endured crushed dreams and hopes, roadblocks, loneliness, and detours. their lives and their stories, whether visually depicted or written, act as reminders when i am discouraged with the place i find myself. and regardless of your faith, that people live way suckier lives than you or i, but they make it. and we can learn from them.

lately i have been thinking, too, about how i was in such a dark place when we first found out about little m's deafness. then darkness again when we discovered my dad's double life and deception. yet a year has brought healing: goodness and joy and perspective and grace. i feel like in some small way i can be a reminder to someone else, who may be in the thick of grief right now, that there is light coming. it's a long journey, and we keep walking the path someone has worn before us.


  1. This is a lesson that people either don't learn or conveniently ignore. It has kept me going in hard times because I know that these moments are only blips and that it could be worse. I hope to keep my near-sighted perspective from blinding me to that. I have seen how God takes care of me and never abandons me even though I could easily point to times where it seems that way.

    Thanks for sharing. Again. Everyone's life is unique but we all go through it.

  2. Your post really touched me. My 7 month old daughter has severe to profound hearing loss in both ears. (I still struggle with the word "deaf") We've found out that she will be a candidate for a cochlear implant and while that is great news, i'm still bitter and angry that she can't hear us now. Your words inspire me and let me know one day I will be okay. thanks!!!


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