This blog post is making me nervous. I’m thinking I’ve got to get this one right.
I know I can’t.
I mean, there’s no magic formula or tangible bulls eye. I just will keep talking. The story will come out.
I mentioned a few posts ago that at some point, while in my late 20s, I began to want to believe in G-d.
I am imagining putting myself in your shoes, the shoes of those who are like I was. Who don’t trust, like, or believe in G-d. The ones who maybe even at a more extreme level, like me once, hope there isn’t a G-d. (For background, see AN IMMIGRANT’S STORY). To sum it up, I used to feel safer if there was no G-d, because then at least I thought the playing field would be even. We would all be locked in a do your and hope for the best race or game or whatever. At least in this game, there would be no referee calling unfair plays on me.
If you are like I was, you don’t want to hear people talking about G-d. I didn’t….
Until I did.
BUT, even once I did, I did not have faith or know how to acquire it.
What I knew, was I didn’t want to fake it. For once in my life I didn’t care what other people thought. I knew this was an inside job. I would come to a sense of trust in a benevolent power or I wouldn’t. There would be no win in faking. And yet I couldn’t force it.
At the time of this story, I had kind of gotten to a point where I kind of sort of believed in a vague powerful force that probably I could lean into which was, I believed, good. My faith was big and general. It didn’t feel personal, but life seemed pretty good at this point, so this G-d I imagined was basically good enough. I was busy with two young sons, and a marriage, and life was kind of …humming? No… thumping?…maybe…rolling…chugging…I’ll say chugging along.
Then, my marriage ended.
It’s my opinion that if a marriage ends, it’s a good thing to be devastated. I am glad that it hurt like hell to go through my marriage coming apart, that I cared profoundly about a lifetime commitment not making it to the finish line, and that I loved enough to be heart-broken by a failed dream.
It was during this time that the vague faith I had eked out in a general G-d was thrown against the wall.
I questioned G-d…didn’t G-d want marriages to work out and families to stay in tact? If G-d was so powerful (and wise and loving), why would marriages fail?
It was during this time I let my lack of belief fly. I had tried to be nice with G-d, I had maintained what appeared to me to be faith, and I had essentially given the task of “belief in G-d” a check.
But now, losing my precious dream – an intact family, I wanted a deeper more honest relationship with G-d. Not cocktail party talk. Not..Hey G-d, you’re good because I’m supposed to think that. No…
This sh-t was going to get real.
Up until this time, I had protected myself from really dealing with my deepest fears. The “how could G-d allow for the terrible suffering in the world?” For me the haunting question I didn’t want to deal with…was the Holocaust. Not to, G-d forbid, come up with an answer for it…but to really grapple… that it was a reality, and still… believe in G-d.
There were some more steps I went through…but here I will jump to the purpose of this story.
I have a friend, Reggie, who seems to have a most delightful relationship with G-d. It’s so real, trusting, casual, and at the same time deep and alive.
Back to this time, about ten years ago, Reggie and I were brief acquaintances. The funny story is our friendship picked up over marble tiles. Reggie was a huge collector of stones; she had what seemed like dozens of quartz, agates, malachites, tourmalines, etc, always hanging, fairly big, around her neck, and changing regularly. Kind of like my dad with his interests in shrubs and later art (another story). Whoever said it’s only the quality that matters (insinuating “quantity” is irrelevant), didn’t know my father or Reggie.
In any case, I am so glad her passion for stones was so obvious because it kicked us off!
I was, while in the midst of going through the painful divorce, changing my bathroom floor. After my marriage ended, I remodeled my home. Cathartic? That day I was having a flooring emergency . I knew that “rock” lady Reggie knew a lot about stones and I ran into her that day. I asked her if she would look at the marble samples in my car and then we followed up by her coming to my house to see the floor in “person”.
No pun intended, but that flooring incident set the groundwork for what shifted my faith profoundly and created a precious lifelong friendship.
Here’s what happened.
Reggie would sometimes pepper her speech here and there with an unabashed love of G-d. Her banter seemed natural and easy. One day, after our friendship had picked up through the marble floor emergency, I remember saying to her spontaneously, “I love your relationship with G-d. Can we talk briefly on the phone about G-d for about five minutes? “Yes”, she said. “Every day?”, I asked. “Yes, I suppose we could do that,” she said. Looking back, that was a pretty big ask; I was hurting and I just did it.
As it also turns out, Reggie happens to be a person of great light. She is kind, tough, funny, and irreverent. But one of the biggest things that stands out is a bright light that emanates from her. It’s not charisma which can be appealing but possibly superficial. Her light seems to come from deep within.
The reason this is so powerful…is the hard part to say. Reggie had a great tragedy in her family.
Having grown up in the Outback in Australia, Reg’s family ran a fifty square mile sheep station, grew wheat, and raised cattle and turkey. Reg’s father, Pat, was a farmer/grazia (or in the U.S. he would be called a farmer/rancher). Her parents and the seven kids worked the farm long tough hours, through droughts and floods, and all sorts of conditions that are so far removed from my New York suburban upbringing. Their sheep station was 15,000 sheep deep and they sheared and sold the wool, often at auctions to Italian suit makers for their fine wool.
Reggie in her work growing up on the farm had many jobs. One of her primary family jobs was to (and VEGANS, I’m sorry, please skip this part)…cut the heads off 20,000 turkeys. This was a working farm that provided large scale food production.
All this to be said is that her dad ran the whole thing and was a man of great strength and grit. He had a HUGE heart as well. Pat didn’t see himself as separate from his family or the land; he saw himself as one and he gave his all. Responsibility was incredibly important as he and his wife raised their children into strong independent adults and simultaneously Pat supported his wife to vast achievements on the farm, AND in her health field professional work.
Pat’s kindness rippled outwards. When he saw people in need, he helped with a rare generosity. His support would be both of means and guidance, taking people under his wing…often helping anonymously. Mind you, his sense of work and service in no way got in the way of fun. Pat knew how to enjoy life. Truly charismatic and gregarious, he was known for his singing at the pubs entertaining all.
One day, while Reggie was living in the U.S. raising young children of her own, she received a call.
Pat committed suicide.
If it couldn’t be worse, (please be warned this is VERY VERY ROUGH….I am going to describe what happened)… he cut off his own head.
RUGGED and sharp as a tack, Reggie’s dad also suffered from bi-polar illness. I don’t know the specifics, but his condition had gotten bad. People could wonder how it is even possible that he could do this. But a man of the land, he did. Tragically.
It’s beyond thinking; the family was devastated. Reggie flew immediately back to Australia and the family mourned.
COMING TO G-D:
I knew Reggie had suffered terribly.
And I knew she had this great light. I knew she believed, loved, trusted, and felt deeply loved and cared for by G-d.
I, who distrusted G-d because a holocaust could happen…Who couldn’t find any answers as to how I could trust a G-d in which a holocaust could happen…somehow got past my thinking mind.
Her family tragedy was so gruesome and horrific…and she still believed.
I could trust her faith.
Reggie’s seeming simple childlike love for G-d broke through me. It was a kinesthetic experience. I could feel her trust in G-d’s love, I could see it in the light in her eyes, and I experienced it over and over in our daily talks (which ended up being longer than five minutes each day). Reggie transferred wisdom, love, and unique encouragement.
Something was real, whether it be G-d or simply her unique perspective.
This was my bridge, over time, to trust. If another person could be so real and joyful, irreverent and fun-loving, after such a terrible loss, then maybe I could too. We prayed together everyday. That was actually my original five minute request. If our daily prayers had been stilted or pollyanna or dramatic, I think I would have shut off. But Reggie taught me through her own actions to talk to G-d in real talk. She spoke like she talked to any old person. She freely told G-d when she was not pleased and she always told G-d how much she loved him. Like speaking with our most familiar ones, she spoke to G-d.
I learned this.
BY THE WAY, I think you know by now that I am Jewish :).
Reggie is Catholic.
Though our religions are different, we have profound spiritual connections. And as a huge added gift, she was a pivotal part of my falling in love with my own Judaism. Reg regularly dropped in little referrals to her love and appreciation of Judaism. At the time, I didn’t like my religion. Still her words were soothing, and as the great farmer that she is, she prophetically watered the seeds that were later to become a gorgeous blossom.
To our initial purpose in daily conversation, Reg conveyed to me over and over that it was NOT her, but that it was G-d who was her light, her strength, her joy…She will probably CRINGE over this whole story because I am complimenting her too much; she will give me a share of grief over it, again insisting – it all comes from G-d. I agree …it does.
I asked her if I could tell this story. She said yes, that her Dad would want it to be told. If his story could in any way help a person find their own faith, he would want it told.
Please watch the video below. It’s Reggie’s garden. She created it and does the work herself. Because it is beautiful, I share it. And also…perhaps a bit of the beauty you see here could be just a bit kinesthetic for you too. I feel it conveys much light. She would say again, it’s not her. It’s all G-d. Of course she also understands it’s our job to pick up the shovel. Thank you Pat, who taught her so well.
Thank you, from me too Pat. Never would I have thought, but you have played a vital role in my life…helping me learn to love and be loved by G-D.
Now I too have this great powerful G-d beyond my comprehension and also this G-d as close as my breath that knows every hair on my head. And of course, to my understanding it’s one and the same
That’s enough for today. Again, it’s late.
In Judaism, we say the Shema prayer in the morning and upon going to bed.
Here is the Shema first transliterated from Hebrew, then in the popular English translation, and lastly the italics show my personal interpretation.
Hear all Israel,
our G-d, King of the Universe,
our G-d, is one
Listen, pay attention our family.
G-d loves every hair on our head,
G-D is ALL powerful, completely beyond our comprehension,
Yes, that G-d who loves us so tenderly, AND that Most Powerful Strong Omniscient Gd,
They are ONE
Good night. Sweet dreams, ©
Love, Vivi 💖
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Cover Photo by Anna, Baseball Photo by Keith Johnston, Checklist Photo by Morgan K, Marble Photo by Marina Reich, Sheep Photo by Daniel Morton, Outback Landscape Photo by getspotted , Bridge. Photo by Tim Rebkavets, Pink Blossom Photo by Lucas D., Reggie’s Garden Video by Reggie