"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Making Lemonade


When he first got out of the car I could see a difference. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, totally missed the new glasses I'd been gently (mostly) urging him to get for months, thinking maybe he'd lost weight.

"You look great." And I meant it. He couldn't return the compliment (I'd just returned from yoga), which left my words to fill the air with more meaning than if they'd merely been part of a social exchange.

I'd been looking forward to Mark's visit all month, knowing it would involve deep conversation, new spiritual insights and some great antiquing. Plus, because he's currently single, when he's here I get to spoil him a bit, to cook favorite foods, to provide space and sanctuary. And as our relationship has grown in the three years since he returned from prison, I've come to love my brother, and feel his love for me, in ways I didn't know were possible.

The last decade of his life has been difficult. Difficult isn't the right word, but I'm not sure what word to use to describe the devastation wrought by decisions he made borne from deeply buried wounds - decisions that cost him everything that mattered, and that sent him to prison for three years. Decisions he takes complete responsibility for, but that are not him. And the man he's become on the other side is someone with the power to heal a family, someone with a clear and certain connection to God, someone whose suffering has burned away all but light and truth.

In some ways the time since his release has been the most challenging of all. While he never ever complains or indulges in self-pity, the losses and restrictions are a reality that hurt. Freedom from the walls of prison did not restore his life to its former abundance. Yet he only looks forward. He's built a respectable life. He laughs. He loves.

I've marveled at his ability to be grateful and to allow God to work through him. He's often my evidence of a loving God - one who understands, forgives and creates wealth from poverty. And the news Mark brought with him last weekend, the reason for the looking great, took that evidence to a whole new level.

Once I showered and we got settled at my kitchen table with coffee, and apples, cheese and bread between us, he started pulling items from the box sitting on the bay window behind him. The first was a small cardboard cube, which I needed his help to open, and which turned out to be a mug. A pretty ordinary mug, as mugs go, except this one had writing on the side: Angelwings Antiques.

And I knew, without him saying a word, that I was witnessing another miracle. He directed me to look inside the mug, where I found business cards that confirmed what my heart had just told me. My brother Mark, who has lost so much, had claimed a lifelong dream. He is now an antique dealer.

Our mutual love of antiques and the treasure hunt aspect of antiquing has provided hours of pleasurable wanderings during our visits together. It was one such adventure that provided the miracle of my yellow vase last summer. Recently Mark went beyond the store level of shopping and began going to auctions and playing in eBay. I mentioned once that he should consider setting up a booth in an antique mall so he could fund his habit. As his big sister, I'd like to take credit for the nudge that was the catalyst for this dream-come-true. But I know, while I get to participate in the miracle, it wasn't my hand that guided him to this path.

Besides the mug and the revelation, Mark had brought several other gifts, treasures from his hunting chosen just for me. Several new pieces for my collection of yellow American pottery. A sweet snuff bottle with flowers and a dragonfly. "I saw the dragonfly and thought of you." That statement a huge gift in itself.

Then two boxes brought in from his car. "You have to choose one. You might hate me after this, because you have to choose." As I opened the first, I knew from the shape under the paper protection what I was about to uncover. Last summer Mark and I discovered lemonade sets - beautiful old pitchers and mugs designed specifically for the service of lemonade. Like wooden screen doors and the scent of lilacs, these porcelain vessels evoke all that's best about summer and a Pollyanna past that was slower, easier, gentler. They're also very hard to find, and usually far beyond the budget of a casual collector of memory-bearing artifacts.

So the fact that there were not one, but two sets in front of me, that in itself seemed something of a miracle. It turned out the choice was easy. One set had been more loved, and its colors were deeper and richer - the purples and sky blues that speak soaring and possibility to me always. While he was very careful to allow me a clear choice, I'm pretty sure Mark's preference was for the other set. The one that is his now, a visual reminder we'll share that lemonade will always be the outcome when a heart is clear and open and surrendered.

23 comments:

Niki said...

Before I had even read the post I gasped at the photo! How lovely, but not nearly as beautiful as the story of Mark..so far, you are a blessed sister :)

Jan said...

I love the way you wrote about this.

And "when a heart is clear and open and surrendered"--that's the key, isn't it?

xo

Wanda said...

I love hearing about your relationship. Mark sounds like an amazing man. So glad you have each other. So wonderful to hear he has brought healing to the family. Bless you all.

Wanda..... said...

Very touching, Deb...we all have the choice to change and learn from mistakes!

kario said...

These relationships with your family that you have forged from the hurt and challenges of your shared history never cease to bring a smile to my face. I would say I'm amazed, but I'm not. The gentle wisdom and quiet care that you bring to your life can only result in such love.

I hope you have many opportunities to share lemonade with Mark, and I wish him luck in his new endeavor.

M said...

I have no words. Beautiful words as always...but words that sink deep within my heart. Thank you.

I love you
Mark

Lilith said...

The set is beautiful and congrats to your brother.

Jessica Nelson said...

It's beautiful to me how God can restore relationships. You sound like a wonderful big sister! And is that the photo of what you got? Gorgeous!!!
I loved your line about suffering burning away things...it really does and some people don't come out with light and truth. I'm glad your brother did. :-)

Midlife Jobhunter said...

"Like wooden screen doors and the scent of lilacs, these porcelain vessels evoke all that's best about summer and a Pollyanna past that was slower, easier, gentler."

Oh, I liked that line. How very good that you and your brother have found a place to join together. Hope that lemonade will continue to bind you.

Carrie Link said...

Oh, wow, I love this, and love the great comments. Ditto all of them! Love that he left you a clear choice (also love that he got new glasses).

Love.

Lorna said...

I love that he laughs and loves, I love that he leaped into his own business (courage!) and I love that he has you. Lucky man, your brother :)

Joy said...

That is such a great post. And I looooove the pitcher and glasses!

Bernie said...

You fill the pitcher with love and gentle understanding for all of life and for your brother. How beatiful is your mind and heart.

I wish him well in his new endeavor and send my love to you for your inspirational insights.

Did you ever finish your big project?

Laura said...

"- the purples and sky blues that speak soaring and possibility to me always" Deb I love this line so much...soaring and possibility! How blessed you and your brother are to have each other, to soar into possibilities each your own, but as supportive companions.

sallylwess said...

You words are comforting, uplifting, and inspirational. The lemonade set is beautiful, but the love it will represent is even more beautiful. God bless you for sharing your stories of hope, of healing and of pressing on toward a better tomorrow where the pain of yesterday only deepens the appreciation for the gifts of each day.

Janna Qualman said...

You write so beautifully. Just the way you relay this news about your brother is so touching and literary.

I wish him nothing but the best. He can do it! Look at all else he's overcome.

PS. My husband has a successful eBay business, and it's our income, our life. He is a perfect example of its potential!

Cheryl said...

It's always a great pleasure to visit your blog. Your writing is so eloquent and so honest. Thank you for sharing this wonderful story. The lemonade set is gorgeous and I wish your brother every success.

Pam said...

You both sound like wonderful people to me who deserve the sunniest of days ahead - bright yellow and lilac sort of days (the colours mentioned in your post are so pretty!)
Best wishes to you and your family Deb enjoying what you all love doing, prospering in your ventures and delighting in each others company.

deborahjbarker said...

An inspiring post Deb and I love the photo. I wish your brother luck with his new found business.He writes as well as you. I am sure I will be popping back.

Kathryn Grace said...

Beautiful story. Your love and forgiveness and trust of your brother are a gift. Your getting to know him so deeply and to share so much with him, from what I have gathered of your childhood, seems a kind of redemption for two brokenhearted little kids, now all grown up.

Amber said...

I love hearing about you and your brother coming so far together, and all your love only growing. I love my brothers so much, and they have also been in rough rides...I am happy your brother has come to this place, and it gives me hope and more hope for my brothers. It reminds me of that proverb, "everything will be okay in the end, and if it's not okay, it's not the end."

:) oxox

Patti Lacy said...

Deb, your writing, your STORIES, blow me away. There's several books in you, girl.

Keep going.
Patti

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