Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Whose story?

“You take an object from your pocket and put it down in front of you and you start. You begin to tell a story.”

Here is where the family memoir by Edmund deWaal entitled The Hare with Amber Eyes begins to teach, what the New Yorker magazine calls, “the most enchanting history lesson imaginable.”

The back-cover summary of the book reads:

                                          Edmund deWaal is a world-famous ceramicist.
 Having spent 30 years making beautiful pots - which are then sold, collected, and handed on - 
he has a particular sense of the secret lives of objects. 
When he inherited a collection of 264 tiny Japanese wood and ivory carvings, called netsuke
he wanted to know who had touched and held them 
[among others, the holders included Marcel Proust, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Claude Monet and Edouard Manet], 
and how the collection had managed to survive. 
And so begins this extraordinary moving memoir and detective story as deWaal discovers both the story 
of the netsuke and of his family, the Ephrussis, over five generations. 
A 19th-century banking dynasty in Paris and Vienna, 
the Ephrussis were as rich and respected as the Rothschilds. 
Yet at the end of World War II, when the netsuke were hidden from the Nazis in Vienna, 
this collection of very small carvings was all that remained of their vast empire.

What a compelling account of this portion of his family history, as it traces the whereabouts of the netsuke, from their early acquisition as part of his great-great-great-grandfather’s diverse art collection in Paris, through their journey to Vienna as a wedding present to the author’s great-uncle, through their safe escape from under the Aryan gaze of Nazi occupiers, to England, then Tokyo, and finally to London, to a vitrine in the author’s flat where his own children get to handle them freely.

This post is not an ad for Ancestry.Com. It’s an encouragement to develop a wonder and honor of history, YOUR history. I am not a historian, but hubby is, and although his interest is more academic, I am captivated by the people interacting with the people. ((There is an account of the great-great-great-grandfather paying more than the asking price for a painting of a bundle of asparagus by Manet. Days later, a package arrives, a painting of a single asparagus stalk, with a note from Manet that read, “This one must have fallen out of the bundle.”)) 

All histories include villains, and heroes, and “a missing 17 minutes” of testimony or remembrance. No to worry. They are all part of the overall history, where people came from, and how they are who they are today... who YOU are today.

In deWaal’s memoir, the yellow armchair reappears decades after it sat in the parlor of his ancestor’s Nazi-invaded home in Vienna; the netsuke, transported to safety in her apron, are found in the protection of a faithful, now elderly, housemaid; original Russian documents are found generations later, sandwiched between old issues of Architectural Digest in Uncle Iggie’s Tokyo apartment - all details befitting the most intriguing of detective stories.

How many incidents in your life have you looked back on and thought, “Wow! So that’s how I got here” or “So that’s why Grandma used to do that” or “So that’s who Opa was talking about”? It can be off-putting, not always a pleasant surprise, sometimes one of those “HOW EVER DID I MISS THAT?”-moments. 

However, we can be comforted that not one moment of this life we are living is a surprise to God. The Creator of Everything is not taken off-guard by any detail, by any misstep, by any poor choice, by any over-priced purchase, by any mean word that we DELIBERATELY decided to make or utter. What surprises me is that He can - and often does - turn my mistakes around for good. WHY?         I meant what I said, and I meant it to hurt! But what our soul's enemy, or our most selfish human nature meant for evil, He can use for good... and will mercifully, miraculously do so to that end. 
          It’s humbling and exciting and encouraging... and bigger than our view of this fleeting life.

How appropriate that it's time to hang up a new wall calendar.. again!

How time flies! 

How life flies!

But nothing is lost, nothing is wasted, nothing is useless providing we trust that the BIGGER plan, the Divine Plan, includes us, has our best interest in mind, and will ultimately lift up the Name Above All Names and His purposes, even if we’re not privy to all the details along the way.

Go ahead, unveil 2015. We’re not getting any younger and there’s history to live.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014


Merry Christmas,  blog-Friends! I’m hoping for a WHITE one, but with or without snow, I hope yours is safe and healthy and BIGGER than what’s under the tree!

As well-established Christmas tradition dictates, I watched It’s a Wonderful Life last Saturday. It is indeed a classic. Every time I watch it, I find something new. I’m sure the “new” I find from year to year has to do with what it is I’m dealing with from year to year, but I digress. 
Anyway, if you haven’t yet seen it, rent it!

As Clarence, the Angel was instructed: “Memorize that face, that’s George Bailey.” 
George Bailey, played by the unforgettable Jimmy Stewart, had the pieces of his life all planned out: 
  • get out of Bedford Falls, 
  • travel to exotic places, and 
  • make his mark on the world. 
Due to circumstances beyond his control (but not beyond his good character)
  • he never leaves Bedford Falls, 
  • doesn’t travel to exotic places, but, in the end, 
  • learns that he has definitely made his mark on the world. 
Clarence shows him what Bedford Falls would have been if George Bailey had never been. George thought that he was insignificant, or worse... he was wrong.
What would you do if you could get a peek at “the world without  (((YOU))) “? 
Would you "do life’ any differently than you are doing it now? Are you aware of your relevance? Are you aware that NO ONE can fill your shoes? Can you think RIGHT NOW of people whose lives could have taken a different turn if you had not been there? 
I’m not suggesting that you plan an exotic ego trip - it might be disappointingly short! 
I am suggesting that you assess the gift of life that is yours. George Bailey got to look at it, and so can you  - consider it a belated Thanksgiving present!


I’ve written in the past about the First Christmas. TALK about insignificant and unnoticed! 
Nobody ‘noticed’ anything - everybody was in town for the census, and all they wanted to do was fulfill their legal duty and get back home. Some invested a week’s worth of travel to get there and back, which meant a week away from employment and income. This census was very inconvenient.
The streets were bustling with out-of-towners, and the local merchants were busy taking their money. No one had time to notice an insignificant young couple looking for lodging... plus she was VERY pregnant. The innkeepers’ wives certainly knew what that meant: delivery of a baby, SOON! NOT convenient. NO, you are not welcome here.

The animals in the stable may have noticed, but only that there was a strange donkey eating their hay. The two humans were nothing more than out of place. 

You had to get way out of town to find anyone who noticed or cared, out to the fields where shepherds were doing what they always did: “Keeping watch over their flocks by night.” Shepherds themselves were extremely “unnoticed”. Not even at a societal echelon where they were permissible witnesses in a court of law, these laborers were outcasts, socially and geographically. But they noticed...

How could they help but notice?  An angel came to tell them that the Saviour of the world was going to be born that night, right down the hill in Bethlehem.  

“... uh, Eli, is that an angel?”
“Yeah, Samuel, that’s an angel.”

Then, as if one angel wasn’t enough, “suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host”. And the shepherds got a light-and-sound show that the world has never seen since. You know  they noticed, and then they headed for Bethlehem to find their Saviour.

But as they walked, they may have wondered “Why us? We’re not respected, we’re not accepted, people don’t even look at us. Why should Heaven give us this information?”

Are you ever made to feel insignificant? ineligible? unworthy? less than? left out of the information? the plan? the attention? the love?
Let me tell you The Truth: 
Such exclusion and condescension are NOT  from Heaven! 
Heaven knows The Truth: that you are uniquely created and every hour of your life is valuable. As a matter of fact, you are so valuable that Someone died so that you could live forever...with Him... in Heaven... forever... as in beyond Time

In another Christmas Classic, The Charlie Brown Christmas Special, Charlie Brown is made to feel that his efforts - 
to direct the Christmas play, to select a proper tree - 
are failures. He ‘knows’ there’s something wrong with him, 
but he’s worried that there’s something wrong with Christmas, 
until Linus recites story of the First Christmas from the gospel of Luke in the Bible. 

There’s nothing wrong with Christmas, providing you are looking at the right Peace. 

Baby Jesus is not in the manger anymore. 
... or hadn’t you noticed?
Good Grief, pay attention!
... and Merry Christmas!