rockwell_thanksgiving.jpg

Jonathan and I are in the kitchen of our house, our first home, making the stuffing to take to Thanksgiving Dinner at my parents' house tomorrow.  At this exact moment, Jonathan is on his hands and knees on the kitchen floor using a dicing tool, pounding the thyme and rosemary into submission. 

These are the lengths to which we're willing to go for our now famous Sausage, Corn Bread and Chestnut Stuffing (originally a William-Sonoma recipe).  We've made the stuffing for both Thanksgiving and Christmas for the last two years.  Our fifth batch is sure to be our best yet.  After all, we've been finessing.

We know how to multi-task, whipping up corn bread and dicing herbs and washing mixing bowls between ingredients.  We've added notes to the recipe to help us in future years (because we have no intention of ever learning another dish...).

Today we were both off work early, and we've been cleaning like crazy people.  After all, guests are coming soon.  And heaven forbid they see our house in its ordinary, slightly dusty, very cluttered state.  Our downstairs is all but empty. (No real furniture... just bookshelves down here... couches and chairs are on the Life Agenda, but they appear somewhere after the flat-screen TV, the mattress set, the trip to Australia and the Eclipse Jet).  The dining room table (where we rarely eat, but where we often sort the junk mail from the fashion mags and REI catalogs) is clean, and live flowers make a cheery centerpiece.  The kitchen is sparkling.

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little_mermaid_1.jpg Hans Christian Andersen's original Little Mermaid had no name.  Long before the folks at Disney conjured up the image of the nymphetesque Ariel, with her plume of crimson hair and ample seashells, the famed Danish storyteller described a group of sisters, daughters of the Sea King, with beautiful voices and tails like fish.  His little mermaid was "a strange child, quiet and thoughtful." 
 
Ultimately, that is my impression of Copenhagen, the city where Andersen lived and created for most of his life.  It is a strange city, quiet and thoughtful in some corridors, but brilliant and beautiful along others. 
 
Jonathan and I arrived after dark on a Friday.  A heavy mist of fog hung low over the city and, as we fought to translate street signs and road names to locate our hotel, our first reaction was something akin to disappointment.  Coming in from the west, we skirted heavy industrial complexes and passed miles and miles of concrete walls, graffiti crawling over them like many-colored mold.  We were blinded by the glare of neon signs, advertising (or should I say screaming about) the newest adult toys, videos and costumes, flagrantly displayed behind giant, plate-glass windows.
 
Anderson described the way the older mermaid sisters would occasionally rise to the surface, arms wrapped around one another in a row, and sing to sailors on passing ships who were preparing to brave an impending storm.  "They had more beautiful voices than any human being could have; and before the approach of a storm, and when they expected a ship would be lost, they swam before the vessel, and sang sweetly of the delights to be found in the depths of the sea, and begging the sailors not to fear if they sank to the bottom. But the sailors could not understand the song, they took it for the howling of the storm. And these things were never to be beautiful for them; for if the ship sank, the men were drowned, and their dead bodies alone reached the palace of the Sea King."
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IMG_1839.JPGThe Denmark border is indicated by a series of crossing kiosks which are no longer in use and by several proud, colorful flags.  The first flag is the red and white national flag of Denmark.  I love this flag.  I would have jumped out of the car, pulled it down and made it into a shirt for myself if I hadn't been afraid someone might have taken it as an act of war.

Honestly, though, I can say that I was not afraid even once in Denmark.  The Danes are wonderful people.  They smile quickly, speak English fluently and without disdain or reproach.  Had I worn their beloved flag around town, they probably would have patted me on the back and urged me to take it home.

Denmark is a lovely country.  We geocached our way north, just to be sure to find a few unique nooks and crannies.  This whole trip has been a whirlwind; more than 24 hours has been invested in the "getting there."  So much driving (I'm in the car on the way to Frankfurt right now).  Geocaching has been the perfect distraction.

On one such stop, we wound our way along dirt and gravel roads, out past dairy farms and corn fields to find a cache placed near a WWII bunker, a concrete box with two doorways.  This was used by Nazis during their occupation of Denmark (a country which remained "neutral" at that time).  The line of bunkers and manned posts stretched all the way across Jutland.  Had we not searched for this cache, we would not have had the chance to see a piece of Danish history up close.  In Jonathan's case, he got to walk all the way through it.  We left just as the dairy cows came home.

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There is a little girl in Georgia, Ashley, who has recently received the worst kind of news. She is not healthy. She is in dire need of all sorts of medical resources, the intelligence of doctors, the expertise of surgeons, the wisdom of counselors. She needs her parents' unfailing love, unflagging support. She needs hope.

I have long feared that prayer, the way I knew it when I was younger, does not actually work. There was a time when I absolutely believed that God listened when I spoke, stroked my hair when I needed Him, and, on very specific and memorable occasion, shut the power off at summer camp when I yelled at Him. We had a dialogue going every day.  I believed in the power of prayer to soften hearts, to make the meek strong, even to heal.

For several years now, though, I've fallen into a simple chatting-style conversation with God. When moments are dark, as they were with Mom's illness in January, I'll ask for help. But it doesn't always come. And when help does come, it often manifests itself in ways that are not of my understanding, or even to my liking.

Where will the help blossom in Ashley's life?

Her parents have been so optimistic, the picture of patience and faith, trusting God to guide them through this time, to touch the hearts and hands of the doctors involved in their child's life-or-death case.

Some people will pray for miracles, for the cancer to vanish overnight.

Some people will pray that God's will be done, even if it means the death of a little girl named Ashley and the breaking of her parents' hearts.

I cannot do that. God will do what he needs to do regardless. Or rather, if you don't believe in that sort of thing (as I sometimes don't), He'll allow to happen what he put into play, long before the world was set spinning in the universe.

I call myself a Christian. I call my happy life a blessing. When children become sick, my heart hurts, and I wonder about God's plan along with the rest of the world. I'll pray for what I needed when my mother was sick. Hope. I pray that the light of hope doesn't go out while this family is searching for it. A lighthouse. A nightlight. A hearth fire. A beacon.  Anything that will defend against despair.  God promises us eternal hope, anyway.  So, perhaps my time would be better served praying that Ashley and her family don't forget to look for hope, even when it doesn't fall immediately into their empty, waiting laps.

In fact, that's an awfully good prayer for the world in general. 

TGBTRD Entry No. 200 is dedicated to Mom, Mike, Ann & Ashley

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