the icon

i promise that i won’t write about writing all of the time, but i’m just so damn excited. i have never felt so motivated. but, more than that, i have never made so much progress as i have in the past 3 days. i mean, i’m glued to my table pretty much. as much as i can be without forgetting the rest of life + other responsibilities.

i just wanted to share a quick little story about something that happened today.  well, to start with, two days ago i pulled out all of my journals again, going through them to make notes on the important things that have occurred in the past 7 years. things that i wanted to be sure to include in my story. when i opened up one of them, an icon card fell out of some random place in the middle of the journal. it landed on the table beside me.

i smiled and chuckled, knowing that i hadn’t seen it, or thought of it even, in years.

i remembered immediately where i got this little icon card of jesus. it was in athens, greece. in 2007. it was in a little gift shop where orthodox priests worked during the day, just outside of a church. i remember standing in there, completely in awe of everything around me. i so wanted to buy a greek bible, but i had not taken greek, so i decided not to make that purchase. but, i was definitely going to stock up on a little icon symbolism. i had already bought a little wooden icon that had peter on it. and a powerful postcard with the virgin mary on it. i suppose i decided that it was time to buy a jesus symbol.

so, i bought this card.


my little jesus icon card has been on the table, shuffled + mixed about with all of my notecards, since it fell out of my journal two days ago. but, today, as i sat down to begin working, i noticed it, and i made the connection that i bought this card in athens, greece, right at the time that everything began to change for me. i dare say that this trip was the beginning of my journey to peace.


so, this morning, as i sipped on my first cup of coffee while standing at the window, i decided that this card would be a sort of muse for me. my inspiration. a reminder of my journey. therefore, wherever i go, wherever i work on this story of mine, i will carry the card with me. it will lay beside my computer. close by, watching over, as i write and write and write. as i journey back in my mind and in my memory, as i reflect on all that i have felt and learned, as i discover and uncover new truths.

my little jesus icon card. a symbol of my journey. my muse.

onwards + upwards! xoxo

* the meaning of the icon. first of all, icons were used art used to teach . the images told the meditators something about the christian faith. everything is symbolic in icons. in my icon, called jesus the pantocrator (greek for “almighty”) jesus is surrounded by a halo, a pretty universal symbol for holiness. in the halo are three greek letters,  ώ Ό Ν (omega, omicron, nu) meaning “the being” or “he who is”. the red and green garments are symbols of divinity and humanity, referring to the nature of the belief of jesus christ as both fully human and fully divine. his fingers are spelling out the trinity: the father, son and holy spirit. a belief of the three different manifestations of the divine. and the book symbolizes that jesus is a teacher.

for many protestant christians, icons are not used. people get all freaked out and think that if you look at an icon, you are worshipping the icon instead of who or what it represents. poppy cock, i believe. i have used icons (from all religions, of course) for years. i even taught about them when i worked in a protestant christian church. scandal! 

they are an incredible way to meditate. to simply hold your gaze onto the image and let it speak to you. there is no need to know what it all means. just to let it speak is powerful. knowing what it means just makes it all the richer of an experience. 

think of it like watching a sunset. gazing at it in awe. letting whatever feelings and thoughts come to mind. just letting yourself go… just being in the present moment. 

now you understand how i see icons. how they can speak to me. how, my little jesus icon spoke to me again today. 



midas and i met when we started studying swedish together about 4ish months after we both moved here. well, his wife moved too. they moved from the netherlands/holland (i am sorry, even though they’ve told me, i still can’t keep all of the netherlands/holland stuff straight.what’s what and where’s where). anyway, we were the only 2 western people in our class  – everyone was from the middle east, africa, or the east. so, we naturally gravitated to each other. even though i ended up forming some awesome friendships during that time with some very interesting women and heard amazing life stories…

but, yeah. me & midas. we quickly discovered that we were very much kindred spirits. both into spirituality, but have a somewhat hard time with organized religion. both philosophers, dreamers, seekers, wanderers, spontaneous. pretty soon midas got a job at a restaurant, and after a while, began working so much he decided not to study any more. i soon followed his lead. it was much easier & faster to learn swedish “out in the world”. we kept in contact a little bit here & there, but did not see each other much. at all. which is sad.

sometime, a year or so ago, i dropped by his restaurant and that began the blossoming for our deeper friendship. and also a friendship with his lovely & intelligent  wife. both of them were a great support for me last year when lina was in the hospital. and both of them inspire me with their carefree, honest spirits. midas and i, met off and on. i believe we inspire each other. it’s just one of those good kind of relationships which is good for your soul. i met with leonie some too. lots of times it would be when i dropped in for a drink. and, then i’d naturally end up running into leonie at the restaurant too, and we’d sit and chat. we did that whole, expat bond thing with each other. and soon, they had met lina.

so, when we had our little flea market before we moved out of our apartment, we had them over one evening. the four of us sat on the floor, sipped sparking wine, and discussed many different things – typical conversations with them, always a little edgy & deep, which i love. before they left, they purchased some things from us… books and 2 mugs. the mugs were easy to sell, but the beauty of it, was in what they said about them: that they’d think of us when they used them. and that’s exactly what made selling all our things so easy… we knew that our stuff would be spread out amongst people we love, who would appreciate and love them.

now, my books were a different story. i had gone through my books over & over again, making the “stack to keep” smaller & smaller every time. there just wasn’t space available to keep everything. so, with a heavy heart, i put many well-loved, very much marked-up books on the shelf to sell. midas looked through them, and decided to buy about 4-5 of them. the books are totally me kinds of book = they are totally midas kinds of books too. books, like “the alchemist”, “ishmael”, “foundations of the metaphysics of morals”…

this made my heart soar. knowing that midas had these very important books, was like keeping them in some way.

when they left that night, we planned to get together on tuesday (yesterday). we didn’t worry about making plans or any details then, we just knew it was important to set aside some time. so, we did. monday night, i texted midas and asked what they had thought about for our little gathering, if anything. i received a prompt, “we have a little plan.” that was it…

so, tuesday morning, i got a message that they would pick us up about 11 and to dress for outside. this was no surprise to me, they are outdoors kinda people, which i also love.


we climbed in the back seat of their car, between their 2 dogs in the back and our kidnappers in the front, and off we went. we drove about 10-15ish minutes, and found ourselves outside of town, in a wooded area with a few houses and a lake nearby. lina knew where we are. i had no idea. we stopped in front of a little yellow cottage and midas said that they had rented it out for lunch with us. and then he immediately let us know that this was their new summer cottage! they bought it just 2 days before!


lina & i were wonderstruck and excited for them. we knew they’d seen a place, but now it was all there’s! so, the plan was that we’d just chill there, relax outside, and midas would whip up a gourmet vegetarian lunch for us on their back porch. spend some quality time together. and this was the perfect place to do just that. this cottage is really simple, no running water, and so right for them. such a great place to just go and be and breathe.

leonie, lina, & i sat on the porch, chatted, laughed, and i perused this amazing, huge book full of icons… while midas chopped, sautéed, marinated, cut, and sliced away. it smelled like heaven as it sizzled. and then, it was time to eat! four different kinds of salad dishes, which i have vowed to make myself one day. it was totally magnificent. simple and real. just time together. great food. great friends. great discussions (like smoking pot, euthanasia, ethics, conservative christians…) – you know, typical dinner table stuff.



my dear lina. holding the big book up for me every time i wanted to take a picture of a page. xo



after a few hours, midas had to get to work, so our kidnappers loaded us back into the car and we headed home. it was impossible to say goodbye then, so we decided that just 2-3 days before we leave, lina & i will head to midas’ restaurant one more time. and leonie will meet us there, of course!

what a great lunch adventure! thank you from the bottom of our hearts, midas & leonie. love you both.


a close-up of one of the icons from midas’ book. something to meditate on a bit… go ahead and try it.

go hug a friend today & thank them for simply being in your life. share some peace & love.

say yes. even if you’re totally unsure.

i got this card almost 4 years ago when i visited greece for the first time. i have always thought that icons & images are interesting and beautiful, but when i saw this one, i was drawn into the picture. it was as if i jumped into the story, standing in the corner of the room, watching this conversation taking place, feeling every emotion of the two i was secretly watching…

in reality i was standing in a giant, elaborately decorated greek orthodox church, surrounded by candles, gold, images and icons. i held this tiny card in my hand and knew that i needed to take it home with me. there was a story behind the image. and something made me think that i had a glimpse of that story. i have used the little icon card as a bookmark ever since; looking at it every now & then, and always feeling as if i have stepped another’s moment.

the moment that the card/icon reflects is the moment that an angel comes to mary, the mother of jesus, to tell her that she is going to give birth. let me first say, that whether or not you or i believe the story of a virgin birth & jesus as the holy one that comes to us, it nevertheless is a story of risk, faith, and inspiration in my opinion. i have always been fascinated by the story of mary…

a sweet, good jewish 14-ish year old teenager, in love & planning to be married to a good jewish man, alone in her room soon realizes that she is not alone. an angel, gabriel, appears to her. here is where i would first become terrified, if i were her. the angel, confused & scared himself, simply a messenger, has come to share some unbelievably amazing news with her. the message? that she will give birth to a baby boy, who is the son of the holy one.

now, here is where it gets interesting to me, regarding my little greek icon. good christians always read the story & imagine that the angel comes, says what he says, & mary says, “of course! yes! let it be with me, i am your servant.” a crazy reaction, i think, if you take the legend out of it and imagine a real teenage girl’s reaction. i always felt so guilty for not being as ready & open to respond to some big change in life as mary was. but, wait. here’s where it get interesting, when looking at my icon.

in my little greek icon, you see the angel kneeling, almost as if begging and feeling sorry for intruding, knowing that the message he is bringing is crazy. perhaps he, himself, can’t believe what he is about to say to the teenager. and then, there’s mary. look at her, she’s trying to get away. sad. confused. in the middle of simply reading a book, thinking that everything is fine, and then an angel intrudes in on her quiet time and delivers a life-changing message… one that it appears that she doesn’t want. it is a change that she did not ask for and it seems that she wants to deny. i can feel her desire to run out of the room. i can hear all of the questions rolling around in her head, “how is this possible? what’s going to happen to joseph? will he believe me? what will my parents say? surely everyone will think that i have had sex with someone else. am i worthy to carry the son of the holy? this can’t be! i don’t want to have a baby! there is no way that this is real. no! no! no!”

i am actually comforted by this uncomfortable picture because it doesn’t just assume that everything is always hunky dorey when change comes into our lives. it’s not. especially when change is unwelcomed & unexpected. ugh, how tough and scary that is. but, my friends, we know all too well that it happens. something comes & knocks us off our feet, changes our path for us, or presents us with a challenge that seems like mount everest standing in front of us. and before we know it, we are doubting if we can ever make it. the fear, uncertainty, & unknown future cripple us and motivate us to want nothing but to crawl down into a hole and stay there.

but… (you know what’s coming)

that change that seems like will be the thing that causes us to crumble & fall apart, never to be the same again, will indeed leave us completely different than we were before. and it will be hard. but it will be painful & joyful all at the same time. and it will give us life like we could have never imagined before.

think back to mary. young, pregnant, afraid, confused. i’m sure that there is much more to the story than we have read before. i can only sit & imagine what it must have been like for her. yes, she finally said yes & accepted that change that came to her life, but not without taking a moment to breathe. her future was uncertain & unknown, and yet (as the story goes) she found some courage deep inside her to move forward, to make the best of the situation, and to open her heart to the possibilities that lay ahead. she did not run & hide. she wanted to, i believe, but she mustered up all the strength she had and walked forward into her mysterious future. and not only did she walk into her future, she did so with a song in her heart & with a certainty that the uncertainty was part of the journey.

that mary, the one that is scared & confused & ready to run, she is someone that inspires me. the young girl, sitting alone in her room, who somehow found the courage to take a breath, soak it all in – even though she didn’t understand any of it – and then give herself over completely to the decision to “let it be as it is”…. that girl is an inspiration. over & over again in life i am faced with some new change, and either the desire to flee & run, or the desire to just stick my head in the sand & stay where i am. but something deep inside me, perhaps the same deep thing that mary felt, reminds me to take a breath, to risk it all, & to keep going. something touches my soul & reassures me that no matter what, all will be well. even in the middle of all the fear & suffering, i will survive. and if i don’t, then all will still be well.

the point is, i’ve only got this one life to live; and i refuse to sit & just watch it pass by! scared, confused, angry, and uncertain of the future, i will stand up and shout out to the world, “yes! i will embrace the journey!” and then, come what may… whatever mountains, valleys, & dangerous roads that lie ahead, i will be willing to keep on walking, knowing that there are beautiful & stunning views just around every corner.

yes. i completely, fully, utterly offer myself to this crazy, amazing journey in life.

peace along the way.