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“I write to shine a light on an otherwise dim or even pitch-black corner, to provide relief for myself and others.”  Words taped to the desk of the memoirist, Laura Munson, author of This Is Not the Story You Think It Is – a Season of Unlikely Happiness (2011).

Housewife and mother, she had managed to write fourteen novels that failed to attract the notice of publishers. Yet, she continued honing her skills until the sea-change called for a different tack.

Stung by an unforeseen marital crisis, Laura reaches for her journal and writes over a five-month period—jottings that later become raw material for a memoir. Her readers she calls “gentle friends.”

Backstories of her twenty-year marriage, their two children, and life in a farmhouse in a Montana glacial valley open the memoir. In the writerly process, Munson explores her own darkness, especially her nasty inner critic, “Sheila, her twin sister.”

Graced by grandmothers practiced in creating beauty in their homes, Laura does similarly in her vegetable and flower gardens: her response to her children’s needs and her mate’s identity crisis, as provider, triggered by a failed business venture.

Humor and honesty, the hallmarks of successful memoirs, are found in this one.

This Is Not the Story You Think It Is – a Season of Unlikely Happiness was listed on the New York Times Best Sellers List, and was promoted by Oprah and the Today Show.  With its writing, Laura Munson changed.

Talk about striking visuals at the beginning of Advent!

Talk about the artist’s imagination that juxtaposed these items in front of the main altar at St. Gerard Majella’s Church. The display engulfs worshipers in pregnant silence: simultaneous emptiness and fullness, a fitting manner to prepare for the Christ mysteries.

Each item speaks of rich symbolism. The sheepskin, positioned in the shape of a newborn, evokes the Israelites’ Passover lamb; its blood, smeared over their doorposts, directed the avenging angel’s slaughter of the Egyptians’ firstborn.

In the Christian tradition, Jesus of Nazareth was recognized as the Lamb of God (John 1:29), his bloody crucifixion and death resonating with the Passover Lamb; both wrought salvation: Israelites from Pharaoh’s enslavement and Christians from the bondage of sin.

In the gospel of John, Jesus dies at the precise moment that the unblemished Passover lamb is sacrificed in the Temple at Jerusalem.

Within the outline of the sheepskin, the blue fabric suggests the mantel of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the woman who knew life, its joys and vicissitudes. The cruel crown of thorn and the jeweled one speak of Jesus as Suffering Servant and as King, frequent themes found in both Old and New Testaments.

And the straw-filled manger speaks of humility, critical to entering the Christ mysteries with their teachings; the rumpled white fabric, freed from swaddling clothes.

A simple arrangement in the sanctuary of this church, but one that nudges surrender to peace and joy—such happens within prayer.  

A solitary cardinal alighted on the plank fence in my back yard, its redness quickening my heart. Then, it whizzed down upon the bleached grass, its dark eyes searching from side to side. Like a wise professor attired in the scarlet robes of a theologian, it discerned the next step before taking it boldly; then, more angular steps. Then, it was gone. I blinked, hard.

Stillness enveloped me. I had been visited and I knew it. Rather than resume my work in the kitchen, I savored this intrusion.

The cardinal’s fiery presence recalled images of Christ Pantocrator (the Lawgiver), rendered in mosaics or frescoes, which adorn domes and apses of medieval Eastern Orthodox churches. The dark outlines of Christ’s iconic eyes, his red tunic, his left hand holding the jeweled book of the New Testament, his right hand raised in blessing—Such was the demonstrable power that had inflamed centuries of imaginations of worshipers, huddled in the nave below, whispering their prayers.

Such still has the holding power to thwart evil, with its allure of dark power. Willingness to follow the Pantocrator’s sway freshens us with loving care and protection.

Available on Amazon

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